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Bundling up isn't always an option for paramedics

Posted January 8, 2015

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— Saving lives sometimes requires embracing the elements without being shielded from them.

"You've got to start an IV and push medication," said Jeff Hammerstein, chief of community outreach for Wake County EMS. "You can't necessarily have big bulky gloves and big bulky coats on. Some of that has to come off so you can work."

While handling calls that range from falls to major traffic accidents, the cold is also an added danger to patients.

"We are going to try to get you as covered up and protected as possible," Hammerstein said.

Hammerstein advises residents to put extra clothes or a blanket in their vehicles since the cold can become very dangerous, very fast.

Space heater fires

For the second consecutive night, a space heater was blamed for a house fire.

No one was hurt after a mobile home caught fire on Country Store Road near Pine Level Thursday evening.

Family members were in the home at the time of the fire. They're spending the night with relatives.

A space heater also caused a house fire at 503 Reynolds Avenue in Durham Wednesday night. No one was injured. Two dogs were rescued.

The American Red Cross assisted the family Wednesday night.

"We want to remind residents that portable space heaters should be kept at least 3 feet from any combustible materials, and they should be plugged directly into an outlet," Durham Fire Department spokesman Chris Ianuzzi said. "It an extension cord or surge protector is used with an electric portable heater, the manufacturer's guidelines should always be followed."

Class in the cold

Students at Cary's Farmington Woods Elementary school had to keep their winter wear on for awhile Thursday morning.

When Principal Winston Pierce arrived just before 7 a.m., she noticed the chill in the classrooms. The building's boiler had a broken part. 

The school system quickly sent someone to repair it, but when students arrived the indoor temperature was still only about 50 degrees, Pierce said.

"We had some parts that didn't like the cold this morning, so they went to the parts place, got what we needed and within 30 minutes of the start of the instructional day we were up and running," she said.

She advised students to keep bundled up as the heat worked its way through the building.

"And now we're nice and toasty," she added.

Utility taxed by winter chill

Duke Energy reiterated its call Thursday for customers to conserve electricity to be sure there is enough heat to go around as central North Carolina weathered a cold snap.

"We don't expect Friday to be quite as cold as today was, so that demand will be lower but still very high for this time of year," said Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks.

"We do ask customers to continue to conserve energy during this time just to help out taking unnecessary energy off the grid."

Thousands of customers in New Hanover and Brunswick counties woke up with no power. A downed line in Leland and problems at a substation knocked out service for about 7,000 overnight.

Through the early hours of Thursday morning, the utility was reporting only spotty outages across the state.

The utility asked customers to back off their thermostats and conserve electricity elsewhere in the home in anticipation of higher-than-normal demand while the freezing temperatures last.

“We currently have sufficient generation resources to meet our customers’ energy needs, but we know from experience that conditions can change quickly, and we need to be prepared," Nelson Peeler, Duke Energy vice president of transmission system operations, said in a statement.

Duke offered these additional suggestions:

  • Turn off unnecessary lights.
  • Set ceiling fans in a clockwise direction to push warm air down into rooms.
  • While the sun is out, open drapes and blinds to allow the sun to warm rooms during the day. Close them at night.
  • Put off high-energy chores like baking or laundry.
  • Unplug appliances, like toasters and coffeemakers, when not in use.
  • Detatch chargers for cellphones and tablets from the wall. These devices draw energy even when not in use.
  • Let faucets drip slowly to keep water flowing through pipes that are vulnerable.
  • Change heating-system air filters to allow heat to work more efficiently. 
  • Seal all openings into which cold air can reach.

Shivering at school bus stops

Residents of the Triangle also took extra precautions outdoors Thursday morning to ward off the cold.

While many school districts delayed the start of the school day to keep students indoors for an extra couple of hours, three major systems – Wake, Durham and Cumberland counties – did not.

Wind chills pushed the true impact of the cold into the single digits, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

"If you are heading out anytime before lunchtime, make sure you have the hats and the gloves. The kids at the bus stop definitely need all their skin covered up," she said.

A Wind Chill Advisory is in effect for much of central North Carolina through midnight.

It's so cold, the National Weather Service warned, that frost bite and even hypothermia are risks for exposed skin.

Skies will remain clear, bright and sunny, but the mercury won't get back above freezing until mid-afternoon on Friday.

"We may make it to 31 degrees in Fayetteville today," Gardner said, but for the bulk of the Triangle, temperatures stay in the upper 20s, then drop back to the teens for another night.

Shelters fill as temperatures fall

Homeless shelters across the Triangle saw an uptick in those seeking to stay out of the cold. Both Raleigh and Durham rescue missions reported more people and normal staying there Wednesday night into Thursday.

Four locations in Raleigh – The South Wilmington Street Center, 1420 S. Wilmington St., The Healing Place of Wake County, 3310 Glen Royal Road, Raleigh Rescue Mission, 314 E. Hargett St., and the Salvation Army, 1863 Capital Boulevard – were flying the white flay, their signal to the community that dangerous cold is in the forecast and all are welcome. Shelters use the white flag system whenever temperatures are forecast to be below 32 degrees between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., conditions expected through Saturday night.

Men seeking shelter in Raleigh should contact the South Wilmington Street Center at 919-857-9428 for referral. Women with children should contact the Salvation Army at 919-834-6733, and women without children should contact the Raleigh Rescue Mission at 919-828-9014.

The Durham Rescue Mission hosted 460 men on Wednesday night and pledged to keep a hot pot of soup on the stove until the bitter cold has abated.

"I don't think I would have been able to survive last night as cold as it was," said one man who spent the night there.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • moomoo Jan 9, 2015

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    The Cary school heat px. was due to a broken part of the boiler--it had zero to do with Duke Energy. Lets stick to the topic in the story.

  • 678devilish Jan 8, 2015

    Yes this is news to someone.

  • moomoo Jan 8, 2015

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  • Lorna Schuler Jan 8, 2015
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    Depends on which state one lives in and what decade. Growing up in Montana buses were not rule of thumb until about middle school. And even then, you had to live 3 miles or more from the school to be able to ride the bus. Within that radius and your options were walk or your parents could pay a fee for the bus. I lived 2.6 miles from the brand new Jr. High/middle school. I and many others walked it every single day. Grade school, nearly all of us walked to school for a mile plus. Depending on the area of town you lived in.

    Of course, back then, you went to the school closest to your home. There was no busing across town.

  • dws Jan 8, 2015

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    Whining? No. Criticism, absolutely. Sorry to put your knickers in a twist, but to expect reliable power generation capacity is a reasonable consumer expectation when the mercury simply falls.

  • Mike Berthold Jan 8, 2015
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    Whine much?

  • Mike Berthold Jan 8, 2015
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    So you'd rather they not make a statement and when the power went out you could whine about that? No pleasing some people. Actually it seems to work out so you can whine either way. My bad.

  • moomoo Jan 8, 2015

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    Just like day to day folks do the same thing .

  • raleighboy524 Jan 8, 2015

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    That's certainly not my recollection about Progress.

  • Barbara Sossomon Jan 8, 2015
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    Thank you! When you have children, there comes responsibility for them. My children are grown and when they were little, we lived in places MUCH colder than this! MUCH COLDER! It was MY responsibility as the person who brought them into the world to make sure that they were outfitted appropriately. Back then, we did not have coat/glove/hat/scarf drives, where I could get those items for free. Back then, we had to do some shuffling, so that hubs or I were available to make sure that they either got to school via car, OR we walked them to school. My children never had the luxury of a bus. Not even when it was this cold and their school was 3 miles from our home. Not even when there was 2+ feet of snow on the ground.

    If you are going to have children, they are YOUR responsibility. Not the school districts, not mine, not even you parents. You decided to have them. You need to stand up and take care of them!