While employees at LaFollette Utilities (LUB) and Campbell County’s highway department were tracking weather patterns in anticipation of power outages and slick streets, local students were hoping the snowy weather would bring them a reprieve from classes.
Despite awaking to clear skies and dry roadways Tuesday morning the doors of area schools remained closed for the day.
“Most people probably thought the decision to close schools was related to the snow that was forecasted, but this (school closings) just happened to be coincidental with the weather,” Dr. Michael Martin, director of schools, explained.
According to Martin, he was notified by David Wright, maintenance supervisor, around 10 p.m. Monday there was a problem with the electricity at Campbell County High School.
After some investigation maintenance staff discovered sparking in one of the school’s main breaker panels.
“I just told them to shut the power down in order to prevent the risk of electrical fire,” the director said.
Martin said the increased load on the school’s electrical system caused by colder weather may have contributed to the problem.
Although the remainder of the county’s schools reported no issues, Martin said the decision to close all schools was necessary.
“State law says that if you shut one school down you have to shut them all down,” Martin stated.
Bussing schedules also factored into the decision to close county schools on Tuesday.
“The bussing patterns at the high school and other county schools are interrelated. Closing only the high school would have impacted many other school’s bus schedules,” Martin explained.
So while students were enjoying an unexpected, albeit short vacation, LUB and the Campbell County Highway Department were breathing a sigh of relief knowing that while weather related problems didn’t interrupt daily activities, crews and equipment are ready for whatever winter brings.
According to Lendon Shelton, LUB electric operations supervisor, line crews are well trained and prepared to restore power anytime inclement weather hits.
“Our strategy is to make repairs to the most densely populated areas first,” Shelton said, explaining that it may take longer to restore power to less populated, remote areas.
Shelton said mountainous areas often take the longest to repair due to rough terrain and an inability to get equipment in to downed power lines.
County Road Superintendent Dennis Potter also said his employees are ready to make roadways passable should foul weather strike.
“Our plows and equipment are ready and we have our gravel crushed and ready to go,” Potter said.
Cost effectiveness is one of the main reasons the county uses crushed gravel instead of salt.
“Salt is $160 per ton and we can crush gravel for $3 a ton,” Potter said, explaining one of the benefits of using gravel.
The highway department has 33 employees and 12 trucks at the ready should bad weather arise.
“Everybody knows that they’re on call. We feel like we need to be prepared for small snows as well as the big ones,” Potter stated.