Cold Weather Keeps Utilities Busy

Posted at: 01/06/2014 7:18 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 News) -- The cold weather hasn't just thrown a wrench into school schedules and grounded your car for the day.

"It's kind of a free-for-all, almost" said Joe Dolan at Austin Utilities.

On a morning that the National Weather Service called life-threateningly cold, business was brisk for Austin Utilities.

"The gas regulators are freezing up" Joe Dolan said.

“It caused the line to fail" the utilities’ Tom Tylutki added.

"We have numerous water pipes freezing" Joe Dolan told us.

When crews went out to repair a power line problem in northwest Austin Monday morning, the wind chill factor was 50 below.

"And so it means that we put double crews on it, so a crew will go up, they'll work for a short period of time, they'll come in and a second crew will continue to work on that" Austin Utilities’ Tom Tylutki said. "We had the customers restored in about an hour and a half."

"When people started getting up and realizing the furnace was out we had probably 50 calls this morning" Austin Utilities gas services supervisor Joe Dolan said. For Dolan, the cold is causing a different kind of problem that's having the same effect.

"It seems to be the furnaces are just stopping, and once the regular stops letting gas through everything that has gas shuts down."

Sometimes utility crews can repair a regulator problem. sometimes they have to be referred to a contractor. But *don't* try to fix it yourself.

"We normally have two crews each day, one on the east side of Austin and one on the west side,” Joe Dolan explained. “Today we have four crews out there."

For customers of the electric outage in northwest Austin, it was a chilly start to the day.

"Those 50 or 60 customers who were impacted, they had no power so they lost any kind of heating they had in the house" Tom Tylutki told us.

And it *could* be just the tip of the iceberg.

"I think once the cold weather ends we'll be okay again, but probably for the next 24 hours we're going to be very busy" said the utilities’ Joe Dolan.

Utilities around the area issued "peak alerts" today, asking customers to limit their energy use as demand went up because our furnaces were running more often