June 18, 2024
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37º Heat Wave Hits Crockett County

By Ron Barry
Managing Editor

Yes, the headline looks more appropriate for April Fool’s Day.
But after a Christmas weekend in which temperatures Thursday through Sunday were often hovering between zero and low double digits, Monday’s 37-degree high felt like a balmy day in Crockett County.
Winter Storm Elliott, a “bomb cyclone” that affected more than two-thirds of the United States, spread across the country between last Wednesday and Christmas Day, setting record low temperatures in multiple locations and causing at least 56 deaths as of late Monday night, with 28 of those – and possibly counting – coming in Erie County in the Buffalo area of New York.
The situation got so bad in Tennessee that, for the first time in its 89-year history, the Tennessee Valley Authority ordered rolling blackouts across the state, shutting off power in strategic sequences for between 15 and 30 minutes in order to keep electrical grids from crashing outright. The decision to execute the blackouts generally offered no time to warn customers in advance, leaving many citizens initially thinking their power had failed and they may be facing life-threatening cold.
Locally, Stephen Sutton, Director of the Crockett County Ambulance Service, said that call volumes were extremely high during the cold snap, for a variety of situations ranging from heater-related house fires to falls from trip hazards such as extension cords and rugs.
“We had over 50 calls for EMS services,” Sutton said. “Multiple house fires. Tons of falls from trip hazards. Several citizens with no heat and no food that needed to be transported to the hospital.”
Bells Fire Chief Wayne Jernigan, after completing a call in which a potential disaster was averted, warned of the dangers of using space heaters in conditions like these.
“Space heaters are dangerous – please do not take them for granted,” Jernigan said. “It’s too cold right now to fight fires.”
Despite the dire conditions, Sutton remained effusive in his praise of the first responders in the Crockett community.
“The weather was harsh and they were away from their families,” he said. “Yet they have not complained the first time. In true Crockett County fashion, we do whatever needs to be done to take care of each other. The dispatchers, volunteer firemen, first responders, rescue personnel, and law enforcement officers are the real heroes. Without them, we couldn’t do our job. Thank you to everyone who pulled together to see out citizens through this difficult time.”
TVA Chief Operating Officer Don Moul told The Tennessean Friday the power operator had to reduce strain on its grid as demand for energy ran nearly 35% higher than expected on a normal winter day, while at the same time a few of its coal and gas energy facilities were down because of the freezing temperatures.
“We’ve restored a number of those in each category, but we still have some work to do to build additional margin,” Moul said. A nuclear plant did not go offline, but Moul said the temperatures were some of coldest every recorded by TVA in Tennessee in its history. “The National Weather Service (NWS) has called this a once in a generation event,” Moul said. “So, pretty extreme conditions.”
A TVA spokesperson says the weather event created unprecedented energy demand for TVA and other power providers across the country, setting multiple power demand records during this event: 
Highest 24-hour electricity demand supplied in TVA history – Friday, December 23, 2022 – 740 gigawatt-hours.
Highest winter peak power demand – Friday, December 23, 2022, 7 p.m. CT – 33,425 megawatts (third highest peak in TVA history). 
Highest weekend peak power demand in TVA history – Saturday, December 24, 2022, 1 a.m. CT – 31,756 megawatts.
In Tennessee, 23 water mains broke as a result of the storm, according to TVA, and 19 have since been repaired. Parts of Tennessee (including areas of Memphis) and Mississippi remained under boil-water advisories because of water lines bursting in the frigid temperatures. Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee all saw power outages, and Florida saw unusually low temperatures throughout the weekend because of the cold.
Nationally, Pittsburgh set a record low for the day on Friday, with temperatures dropping to -5 degrees Fahrenheit – two degrees colder than the previous record set in 1960. Charleston, South Carolina, also broke its daily record set in 1989, with temperatures falling to 20 degrees Saturday morning.
Indianapolis, meanwhile, tied its daily record low temperature (-1 degree) – the lowest it’s been on Christmas Eve since 1983 and the city’s coldest day overall since 1994. Athens, Georgia, also set a record daily low at 11 degrees just before midnight on Friday, its lowest since 1989.
On Thursday, Casper, Wyoming, set an all-time record low – a bone-chilling -42 degrees – while Bozeman, Montana, broke its daily record (-43) and Helena, Montana, tied its daily record (-35 degrees). The temperature in Denver also plummeted to -20 degrees on Thursday, the lowest daily temperature recorded since 1990, as the Rocky Mountains experienced a sudden and intense temperature drop of more than 70 degrees in just 18 hours.
In Sharon Springs, Kansas, a wind chill of -53 degrees was reported.
More than 240 million Americans were put under winter storm watches, warnings and advisories on Friday – more than two-thirds of the U.S. population. Wind chill advisories were in effect throughout the Midwest, as well as in parts of Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
A wind chill warning is issued when the temperatures dip below minus 15, the NWS said. The agency said outdoor temps were still brutally cold, between minus 5 and minus 15, on Friday.
Nashville dropped to minus 1, the first time below zero degrees since February 5, 1996, the NWS Tweeted on Friday morning.
Believe it or not, the bone-chilling temperatures didn’t break the record low for December 23 which was minus 8 degrees, set in 1989.
The pre-Christmas winter storm left at least 28 dead in western New York – one of the worst weather-related disasters in the region’s history after the area was pummeled with as much as 43 inches of snow. The dead have been found in their cars, homes, and in snowbanks. Some died while shoveling snow. The death toll across the country was expected to rise as many remained without power in the frigid temperatures and hazardous road conditions continue.
Buffalo, New York, has seen some of the worst damage from the storm, including hurricane-force winds and whiteout conditions from snow that left emergency response vehicles stranded on highways and roads.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz described the blizzard as “the worst storm probably in our lifetime” and warned there may be more dead. Some people, he noted, were stranded in their cars for more than two days. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime, generational blizzard,” he said of the impacts to the county, which includes Buffalo. “And this is not the end yet.”
Six motorists were killed in crashes in Missouri, Kansas, and Kentucky, and a Vermont woman died after struck by a falling branch. Police in Colorado said they found the dead body of a person who appeared to be unhoused while the area was experiencing subzero temperatures.
Last week’s winter weather travel mess is lingering like a vicious hangover into this week – and the headaches have been migraine-proportioned for Southwest Airlines, which has accounted for the whopper’s share of the 3,900 flights canceled on Monday alone. Almost 8,200 others had been delayed.
This story was supplemented by news reports from various agencies around the country.

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Cody Bishop

Hi! My name is Cody Bishop and I'm currently working as a Graphic Designer for Magic Valley Publishing, the parent company of the Crockett County Times.

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