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By John Barnhart and Tom Wilmoth
Schools closed, power consumption peaked and area residents bundled up.
The Bedford area had an unusually cold day, Tuesday, courtesy of a visitor from the Arctic.
According to Dennis Sleighter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, the cold was brought to us by a large area of arctic high pressure. Sleighter said it had been building over Canada for the past week and the course of the jet stream allowed it to move south.
Temperatures hovered just above 0 degrees.
Sleighter said the high winds that accompanied the cold air were due to a pressure gradient. The high pressure center followed on the heels of a low pressure center which moved eastward out of the area. Both the high and low were strong, and in close proximity, creating a pressure gradient that brought strong winds.
The cold won’t last. Sleighter said the arctic high pressure center, also moving eastward, will clear the area and temperatures will get progressively milder throughout the week, reaching the middle 50s by the weekend.
Neither the police nor Bedford public works encountered problems due to cold, though the town’s electric department experienced a number of problems due to high demand on the power grid.
“It was just an overload and they have power outages due to the overload,” said D. W. Lawhorne, Bedford’s public works supervisor.
The town’s electric system reached a new peak at 8 a.m. Tuesday, according to Jeff Weddle, the town’s public services director. “We’re having a few scattered outages in the system,” he said.
Those started around 3 a.m. Tuesday but never reached more than 100 people. “The cold weather has got everybody’s heat turned on, That has overloaded transformers.”
By 11 a.m. Tuesday, he said most everyone’s power had been restored. “We want to have everybody on; it’s cold out there,” Weddle said.
Appalachian Power urged customers to conserve energy as the arctic air and frigid temperatures moved into the region.
“Voluntarily conserving electricity can help ensure adequate power supplies for everyone and lessens the likelihood that service will be interrupted,” stated Phil Wright, the company’s vice president of distribution operations.
Conservation steps urged included decreasing thermostat settings to the lowest comfortable level, if health permits; and postponing the use of major electrical appliances until the demand for electricity decreases around midday or after 9 p.m.
Appalachian Power did not anticipate widespread outages.
As was true of most school divisions in the area, Bedford County Public Schools were closed Tuesday due to the combination of cold and wind.
“It was everything we thought it would be,” said Ryan Edwards, public relations coordinator with the school system.
“We don’t want kids at bus stops,” said Edwards.
The call to close schools on Tuesday was made early Monday afternoon with weather forecasts calling for temperatures to drop down to 2 degrees with the potential of 30 mph winds. That would produce a wind chill of minus 15 degrees.
There were also concerns about the school division’s ability to pick up children at bus stops. Edwards said that it’s possible some school buses wouldn’t even start, or some bus drivers might not have been able to get in because their own cars wouldn’t start.
Edwards said the school division would have opened schools on a delay if it had not been for the wind.
Dr. Douglas Schuch made the closure decision at 2 p.m. Monday. Edwards said the goal was to provide as much advance warning as possible so that people could plan.
Edwards said that Roanoke City and Roanoke County Public Schools, as well as Lynchburg’s public schools also closed. Amherst County also closed its schools on Tuesday. School offices in Bedford County opened at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Fire and rescue crews also responded to numerous calls Monday night and early Tuesday morning.
The American Red Cross is providing disaster relief assistance for four people displaced by a fire Monday evening on Killdeer Court in Goodview. The Red Cross is providing the family with financial assistance to help with meals, clothing and lodging, and will continue to coordinate recovery assistance.
Stewartsville, Moneta and Bedford crews responded to the fire, which took about an hour to bring under control. While working that fire, additional crews were also called out to a separate chimney fire.
Around 2 a.m. Tuesday, Bedford Fire Department responded to a call at McDonald’s in Bedford for a small fire in the HVAC duct. Around 7:15 a.m., crews were called out for a transformer on fire at Sheep Creek Road.