Electric customers asked to conserve power

Published 8:25 pm Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Beaufort County residents and much of northeastern North Carolina likely woke up today to a third-straight day of an accumulation of snow, ice and/or freezing rain on roads, power lines, trees and structures.

Another arctic blast was expected to hammer the region Wednesday night and early today, adding another layer of a wintry mix of precipitation behind. Skies are expected to be clear and sunny today, but with high temperatures in the low 20s. Wind-chill values as low as zero are expected. Tonight’s low is expected to be about 5 degrees in Beaufort County, with the wind-chill effect around minus 7 degrees, according to the National Weather Service office in Newport.

A reinforcing arctic blast is expected to sweep through the region tonight.

The extremely low temperatures have the potential to burst exposed water pipes throughout the region.

City of Washington power crews and other city employees remain ready to respond to any problems the inclement weather may cause, as they have done in recent days, City Manager Brian Alligood said Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s always difficult on our folks when you get consecutive events like that, but they’re working hard to maintain services and keep things in order.”

The city’s power customers and power system have come through this week’s inclement weather fairly unscathed, he said.

“We had a few tree limbs and trees come down that caused some issues, but, as far as I know, they were all handled fairly quickly restored,” Alligood said about system power outages.

Tideland Electric Membership Corp., which provides power to some areas of Beaufort County, Hyde County and other areas, issued an emergency conservation alert for today and Friday. To ensure adequate power supplies across the region, Tideland asks its customers to observe strict conservation measures today and Friday.

“What we are concerned about is the load, especially on the single-digit (temperatures) day. … We’re just worried. This is a big event that encompasses more than 20 states, all the states east of the Mississippi (River), are going to be in this arctic blast,” said Heidi Jernigan Smith, manager of economic development, marketing and corporate communications for Tideland, on Wednesday afternoon. “In some cases, they’re calling for temperatures 20 degrees below normal, so whenever you have something that widespread, you do worry about your generating resources or your transmission capability to push that much power. Then on the distribution side, you also worry about your neighborhood transformers, your larger transformers at your substations and everything. If everybody’s letting her rip with all their equipment operating at the same time, then it’s just like any household breaker. If you’re running something and you go plug a hair dryer in on something that’s got too much stuff on that, you’re going to trip a breaker. Utility distribution systems operate much in the same way.”

It’s much more difficult to restore power in extreme temperatures when “every water heater, every heat pump, every electric space center is trying to come on at the same time,” Smith said.

That’s why Tideland wants its customers to conserve power, she said.

“In particular we ask that you refrain from heating water, doing laundry or baking during those times. We also ask that you keep thermostats at or below the recommended setting of 68 degrees. If your lights should start to dim or flicker during those times it will be important to shut off as many electric items as possible to avoid an outage,” reads the Tideland website.

Beaufort County Schools are operating under a two-hour delay today, according to school system spokeswoman Sarah Hodges.

The school system’s facilities are holding up under the assault of ice, snow and extremely low temperatures, Hodges said.

“We’re keeping an increasingly close eye on everything. So far, so good,” Hodges said Wednesday afternoon.





Beat the peak


Ways consumers can help conserve power this morning and Friday morning:

• Postpone non-essential tasks to a later time such as washing and drying clothes;

• Cut your water heater off between the hours of 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.;

• Avoid dishwasher use until the warmest part of the day;

• Don’t use your oven to bake in the morning;

• If you normally shower or bathe in the morning, consider doing so the night before;

• Set your heating thermostat to 68 degrees or lower during the morning hours;

• Shut off hot tubs until the weather warms Saturday.


Energy-saving cold weather tips:

• Heat pump owners: check your thermostat and make sure it is not in the emergency, auxiliary or E-heat setting;

• Make sure central system thermostats are in the auto setting and not in manual mode, which results in unnecessary operation of the unit’s fan;

• Make sure all crawlspace vents are closed;

•  If you have storm windows, make sure both sets are closed and air tight;

• Remove window air-conditioning units so you can fully close and seal windows;

• If you are not using your central HVAC system, make sure registers and returns are sealed shut. Don’t shut individual rooms registers if the system is operating. Doing so increases duct leakage;

• Close dampers when fireplaces aren’t in use. Using a fireplace when temperatures are below 50°F will result in net heat losses;

• Rather than turn up the thermostat, bring the warmth to you by layering clothing, using electric blankets and throws and consuming warm liquids.