Record-setting cold

Temperatures fell below 10 degrees and schools were delayed Wednesday, but law enforcement officials reported few traffic problems.

National Weather Service meteorologist Annette Mokry said the high in the Portales area Wednesday was 8 degrees, breaking the record for Feb. 2 lowest maximum temperature, 21 degrees, set in 1996.

Mokry said Wednesday night was expected to have a low of 7 degrees below zero, and a wind chill advisory for the Eastern Plains would remain in effect until 10 a.m. Thursday.

Roosevelt County Chief Deputy Malin Parker said the sheriff’s office had handled few crashes or stuck vehicles because the snow was dry, leaving good conditions on highways.

Portales Police Deputy Chief Lonnie Berry also said there hadn’t been many wrecks, but power outages were giving officers a lot of work. When stoplights went out, officers had to direct traffic until temporary measures such as stop signs were put up, and then monitor the intersections.

Both Parker and Berry said their officers check on frail or elderly residents during power outages.

Berry said his department was preparing locations to shelter people in case of power outages Wednesday night.

Parker said deputies carry tow straps and blankets to assist stranded motorists.

“We try to get our guys to prepare for being stuck in the elements for a while and/or help people who have been stuck in the elements for a while,” he said.

In agriculture, wheat farmer and cattle rancher Matt Rush said the snow was too dry to help his crop as much as he’d like and the extreme cold could harm it. However, he said the cattle were fine as long as he put out plenty of hay and broke ice so they could get water.

“They’re definitely a lot thicker-skinned than we are,” Rush said.

For the city, City Manager Tom Howell said Street Department Supervisor Jerry Rose checks streets at 5 a.m. to see which areas his crews need to sand, which they do immediately upon reporting for work.

Also, Howell said city employees put off cutting off water for non-payment of bills in weather like this, because they don’t want unused pipes to freeze.

Schools are also taking special measures against the cold. Portales Superintendent Randy Fowler said district employees check buildings to make sure they have heat and power by 6 a.m.

“We’re doing what we know to do to make our buildings as good as they can be under the conditions,” he said.

If facilities aren’t safe, Fowler said, staff members send students home.

Power went off but soon came back on at Portales Junior High and Lindsey-Steiner Elementary schools, he said. The electricity at Brown Early Childhood Center was out for an extended period of time, however.

Fowler said Brown had problems with spikes in power coming into the building before school started on a two-hour delay. Classes were canceled, and Fowler said all students were back with their parents by 11:30 a.m.

Xcel Energy crews later restored the school’s power, and Fowler said the Brown staff handled the situation well.

Portales schools also had one bus that wouldn’t start Wednesday morning, meaning students were picked up later. However, Fowler said he hoped the problem would be corrected for Thursday, when Portales schools planned to start on a two-hour delay.