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Arctic cold impact: frozen water pipes burst at three schools


The arctic temperatures, rain, and wind that gripped most of the state late last week and through the Christmas holiday caused water pipes to burst at three Alamance-Burlington schools, ABSS confirmed for The Alamance News.

Crews from the school system’s facilities department were out inspecting all of the schools on Tuesday to try to find leaks and determine the full extent of any problems that may have occurred over the weekend, ABSS chief operations officer Dr. Todd Thorpe said in an interview Tuesday.

“Elon Elementary had a pipe to freeze and bust,” Thorpe said. “We’re working on that today, checking to [see] what has frozen because people haven’t been in the buildings.”

Thorpe told the newspaper he feels confident that any needed repairs will be completed before students return to school next week.

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In addition to Elon Elementary School, “Water pipe issues from the freezing temperature” have been identified at Eastern High School and South Mebane Elementary School, Thorpe told the newspaper later Tuesday. The COO said he feels confident that any needed repairs will be completed before students return to school on Tuesday.

As of late Wednesday, none of the three largest municipalities (Burlington, Graham, and Mebane) in the county have issued boil water advisories that would signal wider problems with waterlines or drinking water contamination.

Kyle Smith, utilities director for the city of Mebane, said he’d gotten four calls from customers who lost water service over the Christmas holiday.

“They were sporadic,” Smith said Wednesday in an interview with The Alamance News. “We didn’t really have any problems on our end, except for a couple of meters that froze. We did have one of our pressure monitoring sensors that froze up…Twenty degrees isn’t a problem; [it’s] when you get down to 5 [degrees] you start having some problems.”

Smith said that the water outages reported last weekend had been caused by “minor freezes at the meters,” which he said “put a few customers out of service until it [thawed] out.”

“We fared pretty well,” Smith said Wednesday, adding that he’s keeping his fingers crossed for this coming weekend, when highs are forecast to be considerably balmier. “When you have a big swing in temperatures” that can put stress on water pipes and cause them to crack, he explained in the interview.

Meanwhile, Gov. Roy Cooper issued a press release Saturday afternoon, saying that, as of 3:00 p.m. Christmas Eve, the number of power outages had declined from “the peak total of more than 485,000” earlier in the day to 169,000 across the state.

Cooper also tweeted Saturday afternoon that he’d contacted Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good to stress the urgency to restore power quickly after planned “controlled” outages left thousands of North Carolinians shivering in the cold early Christmas Eve.

Duke Energy reported on its website that, due to spiking demand, the planned outages had been necessary to prevent wider damage to electrical grid and asked its customers to conserve energy.

Duke Energy issued a press release early Saturday morning, saying “the company is implementing load shedding steps that include interruptions in service,” which were estimated to continue until 9:00 a.m. that morning and last about 15 to 20 minutes.

However, numerous customers in North Carolina later reported losing power for hours on Christmas Eve and said they’d received no advance notice of the planned, rolling blackouts.

Numerous customers in North Carolina later reported losing power for hours on Christmas Eve. Thousands of other Duke Energy customers also lost power Friday due to high winds that made it difficult for crews to use their bucket trucks to make repairs, multiple news outlets reported.

On Monday, Cooper tweeted, “Duke Energy assures me NC is in the clear now. But I’m deeply concerned about people who lost power and who didn’t get notice about rotating outages. Grateful for those who conserved energy. I’ve asked Duke for a complete report on what went wrong and for changes to be made.”

Hovering at nine degrees on Friday and Saturday night, the low temperatures in Alamance County and much of the region appear to be the coldest on record for those dates since 1983, when the low dipped to 6 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

ABSS schools closed for the winter break on Wednesday, December 20; students are scheduled to return for classes on Tuesday, January 3.


Southeast High School construction on schedule:

Southern High School renovations almost complete:

Top ABSS administrator overseeing construction project to retire in February:

Arctic cold during Christmas week causes pipes to freeze at three ABSS schools:

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