-22!

Low bottomed out at -22, just one degree from tying all-time record

GREG LOWER

Chanute joined Houston and Oklahoma City among many cities that reached their second-coldest temperatures ever on Tuesday morning as arctic weather continued.

The Martin Johnson Municipal Airport recorded a low of -22 degrees after 7 am Tuesday, breaking its record for that date of -3 set in 1979. The National Weather Service in Wichita reported the coldest ever temperature for Chanute was -23 set in 1949.

The record low for today was -11 set in 1903.

The low Tuesday night was expected to be 8. Forecasters were projecting 1-3 inches of snowfall by this (Wednesday) morning. Today’s high was expected to be 24 with a low tonight of 7.

Record-setting cold temperatures have created a higher-than-normal demand for electric and natural gas heating, combined with national supply issues.

The City of Chanute usually buys natural gas during off-peak times as a way to moderate costs. City Manager Todd Newman said the gas utility is running on those reserves while demand now is high.

The spot price for natural gas was $5 per unit last week, Newman said, and the same amount this week costs $300 to $350, if a buyer can get it.

The city has enough reserves to supply customers for a couple of weeks, Newman said.

City officials have also dealt with issues on the electrical side. Although the city can generate its own electricity, it also buys electricity from the electrical grid, and balances the cost between the two sources.

But the high demand for heating has stressed the Southwest Power Pool grid, which covers most of the states between Texas and North Dakota. Having to increase heating in places that normally do not see these temperatures has had a huge impact.

Electric generator Evergy imposed rolling blackouts Monday and Tuesday after the SPP declared an Energy Emergency Alert at Level 3, the highest level. The alert backed off to Level 2 Monday evening and after about an hour Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon, the Southwest Power Pool downgraded its Energy Emergency Alert to Level 1, but still urged conservation efforts. 

If Evergy sets a rolling blackout for Chanute, Newman said the city would honor the  blackoutinstead of producing its own power. He said the SPP would pull the city’s grid from the turbine-powered generators.

He said Chanute may not get notice of a blackout until just before it happens.

The city still has three diesel-engine generators that can generate 19 to 20 megawatts, possibly enough to provide base needs, although the city would be an energy island.

“A lot of things have to go right,” Newman said.

The old diesels have been running since last week, he said. It takes time to get the diesels back up and running them prevents the fuel from gelling in the cold.

Previous city commissions considered getting rid of the diesels, but decided to keep them as back-up.

“That was a good decision as they truly are going to help us through this,” Commissioner Sam Budreau said.

Both Budreau and Newman credited local industries and manufacturers including Ash Grove Cement, Chanute Manufacturing and Orizon that either shut down operations or reduced power loads.

Despite the snowfall forecast, Newman said he does not plan to close city offices because of the number of calls from utility customers about water and gas issues. He said trash pickup will also continue.

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