Groundhog right, Old Man Winter alive and well

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 3, 2002


LAPLACE – Ronnie Ward, a service technician for Atmos Energy, said the company had to bypass gas in its lines the “last couple of mornings” to keep up with the increased usage.

“We’re not set up for temperatures below freezing,” said Ward, who indicated that the line pressure has gone up to 80 pounds from the standard 55 pounds in order to justify the usage.

“When we have cold weather we may have to increase our pressure to make sure we have an adequate supply,” said Trey Hill, a company officer of Atmos Energy. Hill called the process “line packing” and apparently it’s working quite well, as Hill said he is not aware of any significant customer problems.

Meanwhile, the short-lived cold snap, which broke Thursday night, has a slight reprise expected Sunday night, according to a forecast from the National Weather Service, with a chance for a freeze.

Entergy was prepared for the abnormal cold, according to Customer Service Manager Tammy Frank, and had its power plants running units the utility company would not normally run this time of year.

“Certainly the demand is higher. But we have an adequate supply of power,” said Frank. Customers may see a higher bill this month because of increased usage, Frank said, but warmer weather earlier this month and the fact that fuel prices have been about one-third lower will result in little impact on a customer’s bill from February 2001 to this year.

Frank offered the following tips to conserve heat during this unusual cold:

• Heating and air-conditioning account for 55 percent of cost on a customer’s monthly bill. Entergy recommends setting the thermostat at 68 degrees during waking hours and 65 degrees at night.

• The water heater is the second-biggest user of electricity. Customers can lower the temperature of the heater, or buy a fiberglass wrap for about $10 at a building supply store.

• Closing the damper in your fireplace when not in use will prevent heat from escaping through customer’s chimney flue.

Dan Haywood is the president of the St. John Ministry of Care, which works with parish churches to provide short-term emergency assistance to people in need. Located at 217 W. Fifth St. in LaPlace, the facility is open Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Haywood said they only had five people come in Wednesday as opposed to the 15 they may get during other times of year.

“Our clients come here. We help them any way we can. We try to get a heater if someone wants one,” said Haywood, but added that can be difficult since local stores don’t keep a large supply of heaters in stock.

Haywood said that people may be able to obtain coats from their Clothes Bank, which is supplied with donations of new clothes from Wal-Mart. The ministry might also assist people in paying utility costs, provided the person meets certain requirements.

In St. Charles Parish, activity in the office and thrift shop of St. Charles Social Concerns has been slow.

Thrift shop manager Sue Candies said, despite the cold snap, “no one’s come in,” and plans are to put away the winter coats and rotate summer clothing, especially Easter clothing.

“After each season, Wal-Mart donates to Social Concerns what they don’t sell,” Candies added.

The thrift store, open 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, also carries such varied items as books, bicycles, toys and clothing for men and women, boys and girls. The office of St. Charles Social Concerns is located at 1601 Paul Maillard Road in Luling.

The organization also maintains a food bank, and it assists families who are victims of fire in replacing their losses.

For the St. John Sheriff’s Office, the cold weather actually means good news in a sense. Capt. Mike Tregre said the last few nights have been very quiet.

“No one’s wants to go outside,” he said.

However, at the schools, the cold spell did not slow down children. Art teacher Nancy Koisman at Lakewood Elementary School in Luling, herself bundled in heavy coat, ear muffs and gloves as she did bus duty Thursday morning, commented, “It’s been so sunny outside, we’ve been letting them outside.”

Local seafood shops are having trouble filling their demand for crawfish and crabs. Kelvin Gros, owner of Just n’ Time Seafood on West Airline Highway in LaPlace said he was only able to get about half the crawfish he orders, and that could not get any crabs from the fisherman in Lake Pontchartrain or Des Allemands

“The cold put them back another two or three weeks,” said Gros.

Gros said it might lead to an increase in the prices. The extreme fluctuation in temperatures expected this weekend would mean even worse news, as it causes the crawfish’s soft shell to molt.

“Seventy is an ideal temperature for crawfish. But not 20 to 70,” said Gros.