Carolinas residents face another round of bitter cold, possible power outages, broken water lines and delayed school openings as the worst outbreak of frigid weather in 20 years pushes into its third day Wednesday.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg School officials said they would begin classes on a two-hour delay, as they and most other area school systems did Tuesday.
Temperatures are expected to bottom out near 10 degrees in Charlotte, a bit less harsh than the 6-degree reading Tuesday that was the coldest in the city since January 1994. Even lower temperatures are forecast Wednesday morning in areas north of Charlotte.
But meteorologists say the cold wave, which was blamed for a number of power outages and a rash of frozen and ruptured water lines Tuesday, will begin losing its grip later Wednesday. Temperatures are expected to climb above freezing by midday, en route to a high in the upper 30s.
CMS Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark said Tuesday’s delayed start, the first in years for the system, gave the district extra time to get buses running and schools ready. And it kept students from standing outside during the coldest pre-dawn hours, she said.
“It went extremely well, from our perspective,” Clark said.
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham said drivers need to remember that buses and students will be on the streets at unusual times Wednesday morning.
“Can you remind drivers to slow down during the delayed times?” Cotham said Tuesday. “I was shocked to see kids crossing the street and traffic speeding by this morning.”
The American Red Cross decided Tuesday, with temperatures failing to climb above the mid-20s, to keep its warming station open until at least Wednesday morning. About 40 people stayed at the shelter late Tuesday and early Wednesday.
The City of Charlotte announced it was suspending the collection of yard waste until next week. And Charita Curtis of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Solid Waste Services said the cold weather prevented crews from finishing recycling routes Tuesday. She said residents whose recyclables were not picked up should keep bins at the curbside Wednesday.
Temperatures on Tuesday morning reached rarely seen levels in the Carolinas. A low of minus 28 degrees was recorded at Mount Mitchell, and Boone residents shivered with a low of 8 degrees below zero. The wind chill at daybreak Tuesday was about minus 35 degrees.
With freezing conditions for almost 48 hours, officials fear they could be dealing with numerous frozen and ruptured water lines.
Shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday, police reported a water line ruptured on Pineville-Matthews Road, near Reverdy Lane in Matthews. Police and fire crews were kept busy throughout the day, responding to reports of broken water lines.
Power outages were reported in a number of counties Tuesday.
At one point, nearly 20,000 customers were without power in Burke, Catawba, Cleveland and Rutherford counties. An outage in Charlotte’s University City area knocked out electricity to more than 2,000 customers for several hours Tuesday morning and afternoon.
A power outage forced officials at St. Gabriel Elementary School in southeast Charlotte to close for the day.
The air mass responsible for the cold weather is precedent-setting, meteorologists say. The cold front pushed as far south as Mexico and the Caribbean. The Mexican resort city of Cancun barely reached 70 degrees Tuesday.
The temperature at Charlotte Douglas International Airport reached 6 degrees around 6:30 a.m., and that easily broke the day’s mark of 12 degrees, set 130 years ago.
It was even frigid at the coast, with low temperatures of 19 degrees in Myrtle Beach and Charleston.
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