Frigid cold causing power overloads, outages in northeast Georgia

Icicles form on the tritons in the Forsyth Park Fountain Tuesday morning, Jan. 2, 2018, in Savannah, Ga. Savannah is shivering through a rare bout with icy weather, with the National Weather Service predicting that up to 2 inches of snow and sleet could fall Wednesday on the typically balmy coastal city. (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News via AP)

High demands for electricity due to frigid temperatures Tuesday morning caused power outages for about 1,600 customers in the Jackson Electric Membership Corp. service area.


It took the entire morning to restore power in the co-op’s 10-county area, according to a Jackson EMC executive.

“Any piece of equipment may operate fine under normal use, but could have problems when stressed by high demand,” said Joe Dorough, a vice president at Jackson EMC, in a news release. “We expect electrical demand to be very high during these extremely cold temperatures, which will stress our system and could cause some of our equipment to go out under overload. This same situation occurs in extremely cold weather as when the temperatures are extremely high.”

These outages were mainly the result of equipment breakdowns in fuses and transformers due to the high electrical demand. Because demand is so high, Jackson EMC implemented its load management program on Tuesday from 6-11 a.m. for members participating in the program with connected water heaters, according to the co-op.

Walton EMC communications director Greg Brooks said Tuesday that they didn’t have any outage issues, but did have to contend with momentary power blinks in Oconee County.

“We did have some blinking and it occurred every seven or eight minutes, and it would be only for a second,” Brooks said. “Nobody was out, but it’s still aggravating. Engineers have been looking at it and they think the blinking issue was due to loading issues due to the super cold weather.”

Weather forecasts show the subfreezing temperatures will persist for several days.

A prolonged stretch of brutal cold took a toll throughout the South over the holiday weekend, sending people in some parts of Georgia to the emergency room seeking treatment for hypothermia and existing ailments made worse by the frigid weather.

Georgia saw one of its coldest temperatures of the winter: 2 degrees (-17 Celsius) shortly before dawn Tuesday at a U.S. Forest Service weather station at Toccoa.

Along the Georgia coast, the National Weather Service on Tuesday issued a winter storm watch as a low-pressure system in the Atlantic Ocean could bring ice and freezing rain to the area late Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Temperatures in Savannah hovered at 30 degrees at noon Tuesday, cold enough for icicles to dangle from the ornate wrought-iron fountain in Forsyth Park at the edge of the city’s downtown historic district.

The National Weather Service says Savannah could see up to 2 inches of snow and sleet Wednesday.

The website The Art of Manliness offers these tips for keeping homes warm in cold weather:

  • Install a programmable thermostat. This will keep the bill low, and efficiency high.
  • Let sunlight in during the day. Once the sun is up, you want to capture as much of that free heat as possible.
  • Keep curtains closed at night. Once the sun goes down, keep all that heat from leaving through the windows by closing the drapes.
  • Mind the wood-burning fireplaces. Remember to keep the flue closed when the fireplace isn’t in use.
  • Take a look at the ceiling fan. Many fans have a “winter” setting, which reverses the fan so that it moves clockwise vs. counterclockwise. Since heat rises, the clockwise-spinning fan will push the heat back down into your rooms.
  • Move furniture away from vents.
  • Seal leaks. There can be air leaks in your home beyond windows and doors. Think attics, basements (where cements meets the wood frame), even kitchen hood vents.
  • Keep certain rooms warm by closing doors.
  • Utilize space heaters, but with caution. Space heaters are excellent tools for keeping individual rooms warm. The danger is that they are a high-risk fire hazard.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.