Drastic temperature changes pose potential problem for city

Jan. 08, 2014 @ 03:31 PM

This week's arctic vortex may have blasted Thomasville with frigid temperatures but city officials said the year's first round of winter weather could have been much worse.
City Manager Kelly Craver on Tuesday said no major water line breaks were reported as a result of single digit temperatures earlier in the week.
“I'm stunned,” Craver said. “I really thought we would have a lot of issues. I was concerned with our customer water lines breaking and having to send out meter readers to turn water off but we haven't seen it so far.”
Craver the city's biggest issue was keeping hydraulic dependent machinery like garbage trucks, backhoes and front end loaders ready to go. This type of machinery was kept inside overnight.
“Machinery that uses hydraulics have to be kept warm or the hydraulics don't work,” said Craver. “The compactors are hydraulically driven and when those oils get cold, the hydraulics don't work and they won't compress. We make sure to pull them into our heated building and make sure they stay warm.”
Thomasville Fire Department also reported relatively quiet nights on Monday and Tuesday when nighttime temps dipped to near zero degrees.
“We've had a few calls, one was weather related for a burst sprinkler line,” Battalion Chief Derek Medlen said. “It really surprised me that we didn't have more than that.”
With temperatures expected to warm by the weekend, Craver said the city faces a similar issue, only on the other side of the spectrum. Warm temperatures immediately following bitter cold can have adverse effects on underground pipes and can lead to potential problems.
“Extreme changes in short periods of time tend to create more issues,” said Craver. “We're getting ready to have something a little odd. What we'll be looking for is once we get to 60 degrees on Saturday. Then we may start to see some changes.”
Craver said the city sees a majority of its pipe issues in the early spring and late fall as temperature changes drastically fluctuate. When the ground begins to warm, it expands faster than the pipe, creating pressure. The same principle applies for when the ground cools faster than the pipe.
“That physics stuff is real,” Craver said. “It's those laws of thermodynamics we studied in physics. Differing materials expand and contract the heat and cold at different rates and that's what creates the issue.”
Duke Energy on Tuesday reported a small number of power outages across the area but nothing on a grand scale. Duke Energy customers are asked to conserve power when extremely cold temperatures arrive by postponing chores requiring electricity, turning home thermostats down a degree or two, cleaning air filters, leaving open drapes and blinds and setting ceiling fans to turn in a clockwise direction.
Thomasville City Schools went on a two-hour delay on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or duke@tvilletimes.com.