By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Crews with Appalachian Power worked around the clock Tuesday to restore electricity to thousands who were left in the dark on a dangerously cold day with single-digit mercury readings.
The company is hoping to have service restored to most customers by today — although isolated outages could remain. Power outages were widespread Tuesday in Mercer, Tazewell, Giles and Bland counties.
The extreme cold — including temperatures that fell to 8 degrees below zero in the Bluefield area Tuesday morning — led to equipment failures along the electrical grid. A transformer fire also was reported in the town of Tazewell by emergency officials.
“There is a lot of stress on our system,” Jeri Matheney, a corporate communications manager for Appalachian Power, said. “We’ve had some switches fail, some transformers to fail — just equipment failures. But no one big thing. Really we believe the system is holding up pretty well. It has been 20 years since we’ve had temperatures this cold.”
Although it was still dangerously cold outside Tuesday — with a daytime high of only 5 degrees above zero in Bluefield — the sunlight and clear conditions enabled APCO crews to locate and repair most of the outages, Matheney said.
The company also is asking customers to help out by conserving energy until temperatures rebound. The temperature is expected to climb above the freezing mark — or 32 degrees — today.
“We are just asking people to voluntarily conserve power,” Matheney said. “Turn off lights in rooms you are not using. Postpone using major electrical appliances like the dish washer, dryer, etc.”
Phil Moye, also a spokesman for Appalachian Power, said the transformer failure in the town of Tazewell initially impacted more than a thousand customers.
Shelters and warming stations across the region will remain open until they are no longer needed. They include the Princeton Rescue Squad, the Bluefield Union Mission, the Bluefield, Va., Rescue Squad, the Tazewell County Fire and Rescue, 945 Rescue, Abbs Valley Fire Department, Richlands Police Department, and Bluefield Va., Rescue Squad.
— Contact Charles Owens at email@example.com