Finally above freezing; three-day chill sets records
by Laura Gaddy
Jan 08, 2014 | 3777 views |  0 comments | 67 67 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pedestrians walk near 11th Street and Quintard Avenue on Wednesday, as temperatures warmed above the freezing mark for the first time since Sunday. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Pedestrians walk near 11th Street and Quintard Avenue on Wednesday, as temperatures warmed above the freezing mark for the first time since Sunday. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
The air Wednesday warmed above freezing in the Anniston area for the first time since Sunday, breaking a deep-freeze that hit single-digits and set two low-temperature records.

“We haven’t seen temperatures that cold since 2003,” National Weather Service meteorologist Aaron Gleason said.

Wednesday the high in Anniston rose to 47 degrees, six degrees above the forecast high of 41. On a typical January day in Anniston the temperatures tops out in the low 50s, Gleason said.

For the remainder of the week, meteorologists expect the areas highs to be 55 to 60 degrees, slightly above normal, Gleason said.

Tuesday the low fell to 8 degrees, breaking the previous record of 11 set on that date, which was recorded in 1970, Gleason said. He added that Monday’s low temperature of 13 was the coldest Jan. 6 on record for the Anniston area. The previous record of 14 was set in 2010.

The National Weather Service recorded an all-time low for Anniston on Jan. 21, 1985, when the temperature fell to minus 5 degrees.

According to Alabama Power, about 4,000 customers in the company’s Anniston-headquartered eastern division had lost power Tuesday morning. The number of customers statewide without power peaked at 27,000 at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Spokeswoman Alyson Tucker said Wednesday that Alabama Power crews had everyone in the Anniston area officially back online by 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

She added that on Wednesday crews were working on a small repair in Jacksonville to get power back on for 32 customers.

Alabama Power spokesman Freddy Padilla told The Star Tuesday that even though the weather event was not accompanied by line-snapping ice and snow, extreme cold can take a toll on equipment and that’s what happened here.

The frigid temperatures prompted officials in Piedmont, Jacksonville and Anniston to open warming stations overnight Monday and Tuesday, but few people used them, officials said. Piedmont’s warming center was at the city’s Civic Center, Jacksonville’s was at its Community Center and in Anniston, city officials opened a warming station at the Carver Community Center.

Joseph Jankoski, director of the Calhoun-Cleburne Chapter of the American Red Cross, said 12 people used the Carver Community Center warming station. The Red Cross provided cots and snacks for the centers in each city, he said.

City employees said no one used the warming stations in Piedmont and Jacksonville.

Piedmont Mayor Bill Baker said people who needed shelter in Piedmont were able to rely on family and friends for a warm place to stay. The city tried to publicize the warming station, but Baker said he wasn’t surprised that few people showed up.

“Piedmont is a pretty close-knit community,” Baker said. “I thought if we had anybody, it would be a really small number.”

Jankoski said it was important to have the warming stations open, even though they weren’t widely used.

“We were just happy to be a part of it,” Jankoski said.

A warming station at The Salvation Army on Noble Street in Anniston was busier than the city stations. Capt. Bert Lind said about 10 people sought shelter from the cold there during the day on Monday and Tuesday, and about 15 men stayed overnight in an emergency shelter on both of those nights.

Lind said the Salvation Army warming station will close at 4 p.m. Wednesday, but added that the organization would accept people seeking shelter from the cold overnight Wednesday free of charge, waiving the normal $10 fee.

Lind also said he discovered a water leak in the Salvation Army’s church building Wednesday morning as the temperatures rose above the freezing mark.

“There was water falling from the ceiling,” Lind said.

As the temperature rose, frozen pipes began to thaw and leak across the area.

Jesse McKnight, superintendent of the Water, Gas and Sewer Department in Piedmont, said Wednesday afternoon that about a dozen customers had complained of water leaks.

McKnight said residents are responsible for repairing broken pipes in their homes, but his employees respond to homes and businesses to turn water off at the meter after pipes break.

Long-time local plumber Ted Parris said people who practice his trade were busy Wednesday repairing pipes damaged from the freeze in Calhoun County. Parris is technically retired, but said Wednesday that he had been hired to repair at least one pipe that burst during the cold snap.

“If they like to get out in the cold, it’s a good day to be a plumber,” said Parris, who has been plumbing for 40 years.

Parris said unwrapped pipes exposed to wind are most likely to freeze. He added that even though the thaw began Wednesday, some leaks may not become obvious to home and business owners until today.

“It will be tomorrow before some of them find out if they’re frozen,” Parris said Wednesday.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy contributed to this report.
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