Effects of deep freeze begin to soak in

LISBON – The sub-zero cold spell that gripped much of the nation for two days passed Wednesday without any significant damage in Columbiana County, aside from intermittent power outages and broken waterlines.

County Emergency Management Agency Director Luke Newbold said 1,800 homes were without electricity for up three hours Tuesday night, with the majority of the outages occurring in the area along state Route 164 from Miller Road on the north edge of Center Township to Columbiana.

This brings to about 5,000 the number of households left without power at some point over the prior two days, when temperatures plunged to minus-14 Monday night and hovered around zero the next night.

In response to the unusual Arctic-type temperatures, the EMA and Red Cross opened a temporary shelter at Lisbon David Anderson Junior-Senior High School, but no one showed up during the two days it was available or at the public warming stations open around the county.

“We’ll always err on the side of caution,” Newbold said. “If we can open a shelter and only help just one person it’s worth it.”

Meanwhile, various homes, businesses, schools and government buildings around the county were plagued by frozen waterlines that later burst. Three such buildings were the county courthouse, county municipal building and board of elections. While the waterlines were repaired by Tuesday evening, a second major waterline break in three places occurred at municipal court early in the day on Wednesday, followed by a sprinkler head breaking in the afternoon.

County Commissioner Tim Weigle attributed the first waterline break at municipal court to a missing section of ceiling insulation that appeared to have become dislodged. He said once the cold snap breaks they intend to insulate the waterlines.

Shane Patrone, the chief deputy clerk of courts, said the waterline breaks early in the day on Wednesday left the building without water for two hours. No court hearings were scheduled on Wednesday.

Still, both the title department and the clerk of courts offices in the building were open during the day on Wednesday, but were forced to close by 3 p.m. after the fire sprinkler head in a furnace room behind Judge Carol Robb’s courtroom burst. The sprinkler head activated alarms, both visible and audible.

Employees were able to quickly get the water shut off. Patrone estimated the sprinkler break on Tuesday night ran for 35 minutes because the employees were not in the building, but Wednesday afternoon quick action had the water to the sprinklers shut off in about 12 minutes.

Employees then began scooping water from the hallway with shovels, catch some of the still spraying water with large trash cans and set up a dam to keep the water from further flooding the hallway in another direction. Some of the carpets in the hallway between the title department and Robb’s courtroom were soaked like sponges.

Patrone called All Action Restoration, the company which had been there the night before, to let them know there were additional issues. Patrone said the company had left dehumidifiers behind to try to dry out the carpets from the Tuesday night break so the carpets could be cleaned as soon as Friday. Now that there were additional water breaks, Patrone said that may need to be pushed further back.

Patrone said if there is not a working fire suppression system in the building, court will not be able to be held on this morning. However, as of Wednesday evening he was hopeful they would be able to get things back up and running.

Another sprinkler head broke in the vestibule at the board of elections offices in the new county government services building late in the afternoon on Wednesday. Spray from the sprinkler covered the inside of the windows in the vestibule and water ran through the lobby and into the offices of the employees.

Weigle said he was arriving at the government services building for a meeting when the alarms began going off. He went to open the door to the board of elections and “it looked like Niagara Falls.”

Again employees in the offices were working themselves, placing fans and utilizing a shop vac to pull some of the water out of carpets.

County Commissioner Jim Hoppel said it appeared a sprinkler system return in the wall of the vestibule may have froze up, causing the sprinkler head in the ceiling to burst.

Commissioner Mike Halleck said Wednesday afternoon that so far there has been no electrical damage found to have occurred despite all the water pipe issues.