×

Historic cold snap continues

  • Extremely cold temperatures over the past week-plus have been great for plumbers and oil companies, but less so for places like Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Extremely cold temperatures over the past week-plus have been great for plumbers and oil companies, but less so for places like Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Children wait for the bus in Peterborough on Wednesday morning. Tuesday's deep freeze led to school delays and some cancellations, but with balmy temperatures up in the teens on Wednesday morning, the students were unfazed. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Children wait for the bus in Peterborough on Wednesday morning. Tuesday's deep freeze led to school delays and some cancellations, but with balmy temperatures up in the teens on Wednesday morning, the students were unfazed. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Children wait for the bus in Peterborough on Wednesday morning. Tuesday's deep freeze led to school delays and some cancellations, but with balmy temperatures up in the teens on Wednesday morning, the students were unfazed. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Children wait for the bus in Peterborough on Wednesday morning. Tuesday's deep freeze led to school delays and some cancellations, but with balmy temperatures up in the teens on Wednesday morning, the students were unfazed. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Emma Landry, far right, and her sister Alivia wait for the bus with dad Paul and dog Lacy in Peterborough on Wednesday morning. Tuesday's deep freeze led to school delays and some cancellations, but with balmy temperatures up in the teens on Wednesday morning, the students were unfazed. Staff photo by Ben Conant



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, January 04, 2018

The phones are ringing off the hook at Rymes, so much so that the oil company’s telephone system can’t handle the volume.

“This is the longest cold streak like this that we’ve had in a long time,” said Roger Smith at the Antrim station. “Therefore, the increased volume of calls is way up.”

Rymes has been receiving about 3,000 calls a day for the past week or so, a record-setting pace. That means that many callers receive a message saying the call can not be completed as dialed, throwing some customers into a panic.

“We’re keeping up the best we can,” Smith said. “Our drivers are working 70-plus hour weeks because, you know, state of emergency and everything like that.”

Arctic air mass

About two-thirds of the country is currently blanketed by an Arctic air mass, according to the National Weather Service, something that will continue to cause cold temperatures and even colder wind chills through the end of the week in the Monadnock region.

As of Wednesday morning, Concord had not seen a temperature over 20 degrees in seven days, the third-longest streak on record, according to Chris Kimble, a forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Gray, Maine office.

“[This cold snap] is stronger and more persistent than normal,” said Kimble, who said the weather patterns seen right now are naturally occurring.

Sawyer’s weather station in Jaffrey reported a low of -15 degrees last week.

Kimble said the cold air was shifted from Canada after a ridge of high pressure hit the west coast a few weeks ago.

A Thursday snowstorm – expected to bring about six inches to the Monadnock region, according to Kimble – will break up the current cold snap, but more cold air is expected to follow.

Kimble said this second round of cold air will likely be as strong but not as persistent as the current cold weather.

Schools struggle

On Tuesday, some schools in the Monadnock area struggled to hold classes due to frigid temperatures on the first day after the holiday break.

The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District canceled classes because some of the buses in its fleet weren’t starting.

ConVal Superintendent Kimberly Saunders said on Tuesday that the district called a two-hour delay due to issues buses were having in the cold weather. Saunders said the district is under a state mandate to complete 180 days of school. She said two-hour delays don’t have to be made up at the end of the year like a full-day cancellation would be.

Warming stations

River Center Executive Director Margaret Nelson said she isn’t aware of any warming stations that are open in the area. She said if a person came into the center who was homeless, they would send them to a shelter in Keene. Nelson said warming stations would open if the region lost power. Those areas would be set by state officials who map out emergency plans.

The center does run a wood bank located in Peterborough, although Nelson said she hasn’t noticed an uptick in phone calls about the wood since temperatures plunged.

Southwestern Community Services, which is one of five community action agencies across the state, offers a fuel assistance program. The program provides financial assistance for heating and utility expenses to the elderly, handicapped, and low-income residents.

Terra Rogers, energy services director, said although the numbers have remained relatively consistent from last year to this year, they have “most definitely” seen an increase in low and no fuel situations in the past week.

“Staff are working really hard to remedy each one as they come,” Rogers said in an email.

She said they provide referrals when needed.

Rogers said the service typically serves between 4,500 and 5,000 homes between in Cheshire and Sullivan Counties per fuel season.

Caught off guard

The cold weather caught Carol Anne Bennett of Mason and her husband off guard. She said by the time they’d checked their oil tank, it had gotten too low for comfort, having used more than usual for this time of year.

“When he checked it, he said, ‘We’ve got down to where I better get on the line right away for more,’” said Bennett.

Unfortunately, the “line” was to Rymes Oil, and the influx of calls from people in the same situation as the Bennetts meant they couldn’t get through. They tried another local oil company where they’d had an account – Haffner’s – but were told that it would be up to a week before they might be able to get someone out to inspect their tank and fill it.

“Icy driveways, the storms we’ve had, the holidays mixed in - people that are not on automatic [delivery] just don’t understand that we have to take care of our automatic customers first,” said Roger Smith of Rymes. “That’s the whole idea of being on automatic is to guarantee that you’re going to get your delivery. You wait to the last minute, in today’s day and age, they expect everything now. Unfortunately, we can only service so many people at a time.”

With oil dwindling, and more sub-zero temperatures predicted, it wasn’t a hopeful prospect, said Bennett. Especially when her husband, Win Bennett, was trying to keep them warm by hauling cans of diesel fuel home from the gas station on a daily basis to fill their tank – a practice he had been forced to resort to on Dec. 28, and carry on throughout the holiday weekend.

“Unless you’ve experienced something like this, I don’t think you understand how stressful it is,” said Bennett. “We don’t have the disposable income available to replace a house full of pipes.”

Then, she said, she commented on the town’s Facebook page, on a post by Mason Police Chief Kevin Maxwell, offering the Police Department’s services for residents unable to start their car in the morning due to the cold weather. She was hoping that someone might be able to recommend a company willing to come out and inspect her tank sooner rather than later.

Maxwell read the post, and he knew what the Bennetts were going through.

His own tank was low, he said on Tuesday, and he’d been getting the same error message the Bennetts had as he tried to contact Rymes for a fill-up.

“I tried the offices in Hudson, Concord, Milford...I’ve probably called 20 times,” said Maxwell.

But he was more concerned with the Bennetts than his own tank, he said.

“It was a safety issue,” said Maxwell, who was concerned for the couple – Carol Anne is 78 and Win is 72 – in the cold temperatures. He went to Haffner’s to request that they make an emergency visit to inspect the Bennett’s tank and fill it.

“It was like a prayer answered,” said Bennett, who said it was a matter of hours between her Facebook request and getting her tank filled. “It was really appreciated.”

Maxwell said that it’s just an example of what can be done in a small town where people look out for each other.

“This is just one way to serve,” he said. “Mason’s a small community and people tend to share any needs that come.”

In another example of that mentality, Mason Police Department has a portable power pack that can be used to jump-start vehicles. If a Mason resident needs help with a vehicle that will not start due to the cold weather, call 878-1111.

Frozen pipes

Bob Areias, owner of Plumbusters LLC of Rindge, has been so busy as of late that he has only been able to handle emergency calls.

“Over the past week there have been a lot of frozen pipes and heating systems that are being overworked,” said Areias. “A lot of these heating systems are working, they just aren’t designed to handle this level of cold.”

Areais said about half of the heating systems he has worked on in the past few weeks haven’t been broken, just overworked.

“The cold is overpowering the heat,” said Areias. “Some of the heating systems just aren’t able to keep up.”

Areias recommends that Monadnock region homeowners make sure that their homes are properly insulated to help aid their heating systems during the cold winter months. Areias pointed to upgrading and updating old windows as another renovation area to help make homes more efficient in keeping the cold air out and the warm in.

“Many of these old homes in the area are not insulated properly anymore,” said Areias. “If you spend any money remodeling your home, you should look at insulation and windows.”

Outdoor recreation

Even recreational industries that are dependent on the cold weather find that temperatures this chilling can be a challenge for business.

Andy Gendron, director of marketing and events at Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride, said Tuesday afternoon people always want cold weather on the mountain, but right now temperatures are close to the line of being a little too chilly.

“It’s definitely a challenge, not only on a business level, but on a mechanical level,” said Gendron.

Gendron said there have been no “earth-shattering” mechanical issues this season but did say that many of the machines don’t like to run as efficiently in the extreme cold.

“This year seems to be an anomaly… the cold snap is lasting longer than normal,” said Gendron, who said there is always a concern about the safety of the mountain’s guests when things are this cold.