Bitterly cold weather grips McDowell at start of the new year


Employees at Spencer’s ACE Hardware refilled propane tanks “every 30 minutes” due to this week’s cold weather.

2018 is getting off to a very cold start in McDowell County and the rest of western North Carolina.

The Foothills Weather Network reported on its web site that Monday, Jan. 1 was “going down in local history books as the coldest New Year’s Day in modern era of weather data collection.”

“After looking through archived data for several observation points within the Foothills Weather Network coverage area, this arctic outbreak of 2018 has produced as many as five record minimum high temperatures for New Year’s Day,” reads the web site as of Monday. “Data which is still unofficial at this time will become official once logged in and compiled by the National Weather Service early tomorrow morning.”

The network reported a high of 24 degrees for New Year’s Day in Marion. Previous records for Jan. 1 in Marion were 31 degrees in 1918, 32 degrees in 1977 and 33 degrees in 1900 and 2001, according to their web site.

Emergency Services Director William Kehler said that as of Monday afternoon, McDowell EMS has not responded to any calls related to hypothermia.

“Our EM team will continue to monitor for any power outages and take necessary actions should outages become extended or widespread,” said Kehler.

Kehler said McDowell Emergency Management is putting out the following information from the National Weather Service through social media.

“A very cold arctic airmass has built over the region and will persist through the week,” reads the announcement. “Expect temperatures to fall into the single digits to teens across the mountains at times each night, with lows in the teens to 20s across the foothills and piedmont this week. Daytime maximum temperatures will struggle to get above the freezing most days this week, especially across the mountains where highs in the 20s will be common.

“The cold weather will likely result in high demand for electricity across the region. Power outages may result from the heavy electrical load. Those who require electricity for heating or medical equipment should consider having backup heat or electrical sources available. Take steps now to protect your property and health from the extreme cold. If you go outside, wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf. It is imperative that parents make sure children returning to school this week are prepared for the prolonged cold, especially if they will be outside waiting at bus stops in the mornings. If driving, keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Check your antifreeze and windshield washer fluid levels.

“Be sure to carry a fully charged cell phone. While at home, consider allowing indoor plumbing fixtures to drip to permit water to trickle through pipes and inhibit freezing. Use caution with space heaters in order to avoid fire or injury. If emergency generators will be used, they must be situated outdoors in well-ventilated areas to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, remember to check in on family, friends, and elderly neighbors who might be susceptible to the cold. Do not forget about your pets and livestock. Make sure they have a source of water that will not freeze and a warm place to take shelter from the wind and cold. Do not attempt to walk on frozen ponds, lakes, or streams, as the ice will not be thick enough to support the weight - even of a child.”

Lisa Hicks with Pyatt Heating and Air said the business has received many calls on Tuesday for folks with no heat. The company works with gas and oil furnaces, plus heat pumps.

“We recommend getting a preventative maintenance check (in the fall) before the cold weather hits,” said Hicks. “It is always good to have a backup source of heat in case the main source goes out.”

At Spencer’s ACE Hardware on Rutherford Road, sales soared over the last few days, with at least 60 propane tanks being filled by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, according to store owner Nancy Spencer.

“It’s been really busy – I’d say we’ve had people coming in every 30 minutes,” said Spencer. “Propane is a lot of people’s primary and secondary heating and power, so we’re glad to be able to help people in this cold weather.”

With temperatures expected to drop well below freezing this week, residents are encouraged to protect their homes against frozen pipes and other cold-weather problems.

“Frozen plumbing that leads to burst pipes can cause several thousand dollars in property damage,” said Russ Dubisky, a spokesman for the Insurance Federation of North Carolina (IFNC).

According to the Insurance Services Office (ISO), the average homeowner’s insurance claim for water damage and freezing exceeds $6,000.

IFNC offers the following tips to help protect your home against frigid temperatures this winter:


• Keep the house warm. Set the thermostat for at least 65 degrees, as the temperature inside the walls, where pipes are located, is substantially colder. If you use a supplementary heat source, such as a fireplace or space heater, leave at least 36-inches of clearance between the heat source and combustible materials such as bedding, furniture, books, and curtains. Also, make sure heaters are turned off when unattended and fires are completely out before you close the damper.

• Open cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathrooms to allow warm air to circulate around interior pipes.

• Maintain a slow trickle of water flow through faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space. If your house will be unattended for long periods, drain the water system.

• Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces.

• Check your pipes. Closely examine pipes for cracks and leaks. If any are damaged, have them repaired as soon as possible. Insulation or heating tape can be added to any exposed pipes.

• Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. This will protect against the increased pressure caused by freezing pipes and can prevent pipes from bursting.


• Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping and detach garden hoses from faucets and spigots.

• Seal any cracks or holes in outside walls and foundations and use caulking around water pipes.


If freezing causes pipes to burst and water damages your home, shut off the home’s water supply as quickly as possible to help minimizing damage. Then, contact your insurance carrier and hire a qualified professional to make the repairs. Standard homeowners’ policies cover many winter-related disasters such as water damage resulting from burst pipes, and ice damage.

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