The bitter cold temperatures this week are causing considerable strain on all sorts of utility infrastructure. But despite some real challenges, they are holding up well.
Much of the United States is challenged by the unique winter weather. Snow and ice throughout the country, even as far south as Houston, Texas, have created dangerous roads, cold living conditions and power outages.
We're a bit more prepared in the Upper Midwest for cold events. Even so, temperatures below zero can be challenging for anyone.
In Madison, a water main break near Madison High School caused school to be called off Wednesday. We thank the workers who were braving cold temperatures to seal that break Wednesday morning.
The broader region, served by many electric utilities and rural electric cooperatives, has suffered a supply shortage of electricity as demand surged. Rolling blackouts occurred Tuesday in the region, but not in Madison.
Power providers are required to keep excess capacity available in case something like this happens. One of the excess capacity generators is a diesel plant owned by the city of Madison and leased to Basin Electric Power Cooperative. Judging by the steam coming from the stacks, that plant has been helping reduce the impact of the shortage.
Despite the water main break and the rolling blackouts, infrastructure seems to be holding up well locally. Businesses are operating, roads are clear, natural gas supplies are keeping up with demand, fresh water and wastewater systems are working well. As temperatures climb in the next few days, we'll be back to normal.
Infrastructure improvements can be expensive and mostly invisible, but we appear to be handling this cold weather event very well.
-- Jon M. Hunter