Folks Shivering as Arctic Chill Settles In
Ronald Shepard and Mark Phillips want the weather to warm up, but not too much.
The cold snap gripping Moore County, and much of the nation, is good for their business. On Wednesday, they were selling firewood from the back of their trucks parked alongside U.S. 15-501 near Old Morganton Road.
Phillips said business usually picks up after the first cold snap of the year.
"We are selling something that people need," Phillips said.
Shepard added, "People that burn wood, it's awful cold and if their fire goes out, they could be in an awful mess."
Heating and plumbing businesses were flooded with with calls. One representative from a local company said it had been a "crazy" week. Another declined comment saying only that business always picks up when temperatures drop.
Temperatures in the Sandhills have been well below normal for weeks. Highs have struggled to get out of the 30s. Lows have dipped into the mid-teens. The average high temperature for January is near 50.
The unseasonably cold weather - the result of several blasts of arctic air - is expected to last through the weekend before temperatures gradually warm up.
The forecast at deadline time called for a light dusting of snow overnight Thursday. That prompted the N.C. Department of Transportation and several towns to put down a salt brine solution on main highways and roads to prevent ice from bonding to the surface. Crews were out Wednesday and Thursday treating roads.
Because of the extreme cold, anything that falls is expected to stick to the ground, according to weather forecasters.
The Moore County public schools announced late Thurday that schools would open two hours late today.
While many residents have chosen to stay inside, there are some who have to brave the elements, such as construction workers.
Work continued at sites across Moore County, including the site of the Taco Bell that is being remodeled.
Henry Reber, the construction site supervisor, said Wednesday that work is "rolling along" after some delays due to the holidays. The weather does slow down some work, but he says the project should be completed by mid-February.
"Cold is part of the construction business in the winter," Reber said. "If we get a little bit of warmth, that will help, but right now we can live with it as long as we stay around 40 degrees. If it gets under 40 degrees, there are some things we can't do."
Those who have to be outside, especially for prolonged periods of time, are urged to be prepared, as they could be at risk for hypothermia.
"If you are going to be outside, don't stay outside too, too long," said Mike Cameron, assistant fire chief for Southern Pines. "Come inside often and remember to dress in layers,"
The cold weather is also a concern for Moore County's homeless.
Susan Bellew, executive director of Family Promise of Moore County - a nonprofit organization that provides shelter, meals and support services to homeless families with children - said the group's Aberdeen shelter is filled to capacity. It has space for four families.
"All of our beds are full," she said by phone Thursday. "We have families that call us and we just have to turn them away."
Bellew said her organization advises families that inquire about its shelter to stay where they are for the time being if at all possible.
"We're just asking them to hold on there until we have an opening here," she said.
Local officials also urge residents to be careful when using gas logs, space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters.
House fires resulting from heating material within the home ranks second for the most deaths and property loss, falling behind improperly discarded smoking material. Fires started by space heaters account for 74 percent of home fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Common causes of these fires include placing space heaters too close to combustibles and fueling errors involving liquid or gas fueled heating equipment.
The American Red Cross recommends taking the following preventive measures to minimize the chance and impact of fire.
n Make sure all smoke detectors are working properly and have fresh batteries.
n Never use charcoal or gas grills indoors to heat homes because of the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.
n Be extremely careful with candles. Keep candles away from combustible materials. Never leave children unattended in a room with lit candles. Keep candles, matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
n Inspect fireplaces and wood stoves. Have your chimney connections and flues inspected by a professional and cleaned if necessary prior to the start of every heating season.
n Use a sturdy screen or door in front of the fireplace.
n Burn only wood Never burn paper or pine boughs.
n Be aware of the overuse of electrical outlets. Don't overload electrical outlets and be careful of extension cords that present hazardous walkways.
n Have one or more working fire extinguishers in your home. Most fire departments will provide training on how to use fire extinguishers.
Residents are also urged to use caution around ponds and bodies of water that could be frozen because of the extended cold weather. Emergency services officials warn residents to not walk on any frozen ponds.
Humans aren't the only ones affected by the cold.
Extreme cold has taken its toll on animals during the past week, with two tethered dogs, four months old, found frozen to death in a backyard, according to Bryant Voss, the Moore County Animal Control officer conducting the ongoing investigation.
Other complaints about animals suffering in the cold have been investigated during the past week, says Al Carter, director of the county's animal operations, who has been fielding calls and e-mails from worried residents.
"Critters need to come inside when it gets cold and temperatures drop into the 20s," Carter said.
Carter says all three animal control officers have been crisscrossing the county checking on pets and other animals that have been exposed to the prolonged freezing temperatures.
"People really just need to use common sense," he says. "You must supply food, water and adequate shelter to keep them in good health and comfort. That's the law."
According to the 2008 Moore County Animal Control Ordinance, proper shelter must be structurally sound and maintained to protect the animal from injury and the elements. It must be of sufficient size to permit the animal to enter, stand, turn around and lie down in a natural manner. It must have at least three solid sides, a roof and solid floor. Any shelter that does not protect an animal from temperature extremes or precipitation, or which does not provide adequate ventilation or drainage, does not comply.
Voss said even though an outdoor doghouse may comply, that doesn't mean it is sufficient shelter when it gets this cold.
"With the temperatures and wind chill pushing the temperature down to the teens, anyone is going to feel it. If your pet is used to being indoors and you put him outside, even for just a few minutes, you need to watch him," he says. "The temperature shock will be too much for him - it's like jumping into a frozen pond.
"It's easy to get busy at something in the house and forget your pet is still outside. In this type of weather, it won't take long for hypothermia, or death."
While some have to be be outside because of their jobs, others were out by choice, including members of the Pinecrest and Union Pines track teams who were competing in a seven-team meet Wednesday at Union Pines.
Kids used Snuggies hooded sweatshirts and blankets to stay warm. They kept their sweats on until their race. Some ran in their shorts and tank tops. The meet lasted past sundown.
Pinecrest senior distance runner Craig Baggett said this wasn't the coldest meet hed ever run in.
"It's been pretty cold a few times. When we went to an Elon meet one year it snowed. That was probably the coldest one."
Venerable Harnett Central track coach Sam Bell commented to longtime Union Pines track coach Nat Carter at one point, "If you try to have another one like this next week and I see your numbers on my phone, I ain't answering."
Freelance writer Claudia Watson, sports editor Patrick Love and staff writer John Krahnert contributed to this story. Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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