No lasting damage as county weathers Christmas cold with brief blackouts

Dec. 28—Brief local power blackouts programmed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) left perhaps the most significant impression from the dangerously cold weather blast that kept Cullman-area residents indoors over the long Christmas holiday weekend.

The Cullman Emergency Management Agency reported no loss of life, widespread property damage, or other significant lasting effect from the spate of sub-freezing weather that settled over Cullman County and all of north Alabama from last Thursday through Sunday. A late dusting of wintry precipitation did complicate travel for people in the county's eastern edge late Monday, said EMA director Tim Sartin, noting that the lengthy bout of Arctic air caused no other extensive issues during its unwelcome local stay.

"It got cold and stayed cold for a few days, and now it's going to warm up," said Sartin on Tuesday. "Other than the bit of snow we had yesterday, and some temporary problems that created on the county's east side, that's about it.

"Things did get really slick out on the east side of the county near the Baileyton and Joppa area for a short time on Monday," he added. "I talked to a sheriff's lieutenant last night who was out in the Apple Grove Road area near [Alabama] Highway 69 at Baileyton, and he said that cars were getting stranded during the snowfall out there. Thankfully, the snow was brief and didn't create any larger problems across the county."

More inconvenient were the TVA-mandated rolling blackouts that affected some residential customers of the Cullman Electric Cooperative over the weekend. In communications to media and with customers online, the co-op noted this weekend marked the first time in the utility's history that TVA had imposed blackouts on the local service area.

Owing to high power demand as TVA customers took measures to stay warm, the authority imposed the blackouts across north Alabama as part of a temporary Emergency Load Curtailment Program that sought to manage power consumption through rolling outages intended to last no more than 30 minutes, at any single metered address, over the course of an eight-hour span.

The blackouts affected local co-op customers through the morning of Saturday, Dec. 24, and were announced to have ended as of 10:30 a.m. that same day. Overall, the Emergency Load Curtailment Program affected portions of a far broader regional TVA service area extending across 153 local power companies that provide electricity to more than 10 million people across seven southern states.