Cold snap: Hawkins won't open emergency shelters unless there's a demand

Jeff Bobo • Jan 2, 2018 at 7:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — In the midst of the first serious cold snap of the year, Hawkins County hadn't opened any official emergency shelters as of Tuesday evening, but EMA Director Gary Murrell said if anyone needs to find a warm place, just call 911.

The temperature will dip into the teens tonight and into the single digits Thursday and Friday nights, which means furnaces, heat pumps, space heaters and electric wiring will be tested over the next three days.

"If you power goes out or your heater stops working for whatever reason, it doesn't take long for your house to get dangerously cold in weather like this," Murrell told the Times News on Tuesday. "If you're having an emergency and you need a warm place to ride out this cold snap, just call 911. We'll make arrangements to find you a warm place temporarily, and if you don't have a ride, someone will come get you."

Murrell said the Hawkins County Rescue Squad in Rogersville and the Church Hill Rescue Squad can be utilized as emergency shelters for a small number of people if necessary. The nonprofit organization People Loving People is also working with Murrell to find temporary shelter if needed.

If those resources aren't sufficient, the American Red Cross will take over and begin opening shelters where they’re needed in the county.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there hadn't been any calls or demand for emergency shelters in Hawkins County.

But that doesn’t mean the cold weather hasn’t already taken a toll. Water lines broke Monday at the Church Hill Healthcare and Rehab nursing home, causing flooding and electrical problems.

"I got a call from the (Church Hill) nursing home Monday because they wanted to know if we had any excess heaters to dry the walls and help keep the pipes from freezing in the attic," Murrell said. "They moved some patients out of some rooms that had water damage, and then they had to move some others out of a wing that had some power issues. When I left (Monday) evening, they had electricians there, their maintenance people there, and all of their staff was there and everything was good. I touched base with them this morning and they were still in good shape."

Cold weather is also blamed for an electric transformer fire Tuesday afternoon near Mooresburg Elementary School, and Hawkins County Schools were scheduled to be on a two hour delay today due to the cold weather.

There was also an abandoned house fire on Bert Price Road near Rogersville on Tuesday that resulted in one person being hospitalized for exposure, but there weren't many details available about that situation as of Tuesday evening.

Murrell said the two main cold weather concerns for homeowners should be water pipes and making sure space heaters are operated safely.

Murrell said everyone with wall heaters and space heaters should inspect them and make sure there's nothing close enough to possibly catch on fire.

The best way to prevent waterlines from freezing is to keep a faucet running at a trickle.