Cold front heats up emergencies

Tonya Garner: Freedom Newspapers

Area residents awoke Wednesday morning to single-digit temperatures and found their yards and vehicles covered with a fine, white layer of frost from a blast of Arctic air off the Rockies.

Temperatures remained in the teens Wednesday with 15 to 24 mph winds making it seem even colder, according to the National Weather Service.

For Gerry Gomez, the chill of winter highlights the hardships of poverty. The Lighthouse Mission administrative assistant in Clovis said the cold weather drives many low-income people to the mission center. She said she distributed three portable heaters Wednesday, in addition to electric blankets. Some Clovis residents, she said, have no respite from the weather. They cannot afford heat, or their houses are woefully inadequate shelters.

“A lot of people in our community are really suffering because of this cold. They live in old, rickety houses. Their windows are not weatherproof. It is very bad for low-income people in our city,” Gomez said.

It’s not only humans who need special care during cold weather.

Eric Palla of Wayne Palla Dairies said cows are prone to frostbite on their udders if they are not properly maintained.
“Extreme temperatures with wind can cause frostbite,” Palla said. “This is painful for the cow and costly for the owner.”

The dairyman said udder frostbite is kept at bay by applying a specially formulated ointment. Palla said feed is increased during the winter months to keep milk production at a maximum level.

Protecting the animals’ water supply can also be a winter problem. Palla said employees check constantly to assure the water troughs remain unfrozen.

“We use a sledgehammer to break up the ice if the troughs are frozen,” he said. “We also have special equipment to heat the pipes if necessary.”

New Mexico’s frigid weather should begin to ease today, but some valley communities might not warm up until a day later, the National Weather Service said.

Another cold front could seep into the state Friday night, but it should not usher in an Arctic blast.

A storm system could move into the state from the west on Sunday, bringing widespread precipitation.

Texico bus company owner Brent Queener said it was 8 degrees Wednesday morning when the first of five buses headed out of the bus barn.

“We didn’t have any trouble getting our buses started this morning,” said Queener, who owns the To & From Bus Co. that transports approximately 220 students in Texico. “We did let the buses warm up a little longer this morning, though.”

He said on cold mornings, such as Wednesday, most students stay inside until the bus arrives.

“Usually, the kids are waiting for us outside,” Queener said, “but on days like this we don’t mind waiting a little longer.”
The first major cold spell of the year also brought out last-minute shoppers to home hardware centers.

Dawn Myers, assistant manager at Triangle Ace Home Center on North Prince Street, said it was easy to tell it was cold outside by looking at her customers.

“You can just see it in their faces,” she said.

Myers said items such as weather stripping for windows and doors, shrink wrap for windows and tape for pipes were in demand. She said customers were also looking for space heaters.

Heating and plumbing contractor Margirito Peralez said his firm was flooded with service calls.

“We told them we’d put them on the list and get to them as soon as possible.” He said he usually receives two to three service calls a day. As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, he had received 19 calls.

“It was mainly heaters,” said Peralez, explaining the gas company won’t supply fuel to a unit until it is in safe working condition.