One of the best thing about a snowstorm is the snow day.
But it was the cold that closed schools in Burney Monday.
Sub-zero temperatures froze both pipes and bus fuel lines in Burney and McArthur. Four buses broke down today due to the cold temperatures.
Diesel starts to freeze around zero Fahrenheit, and Burney’s overnight low dropped to -7 this morning, causing the fuel to start freezing in the extreme cold.
Mechanics say when that happens the diesel turns into a jelly, which gums up all the parts of the engine.
That jelly can’t be sprayed into or burned in an engine either, rendering the buses useless.
“We kept leaving with buses,” says Charles Kingsbury, a driver and mechanic for the Fall River School District, “but then they’d freeze up. Most of them made it back, but one didn’t.”
But these are the mountains, it can’t be the first time it’s gotten this cold.
“We’ve had it cold like this before,” says driver Bob Reitenbach, “but this is the first time we’ve had this issue.”
He’s right, just last week Burney’s temperatures dropped into the single digits to near zero.
Both drivers and mechanics blame the sudden freeze on the new low-sulfur fuel being used to help keep emissions down.
But say they’ll combat future cold snaps with more additives designed to keep diesel from freezing.
The biggest problems involved the children who depend on the buses. Several were left waiting in the cold for buses that broke down on the way there.
“That’s our biggest fear.” says Superintendent Greg Hawkins, “we just absolutely do not like to leave kids out in the cold. We take a lot of measures to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”
Fortunately there were no reports of injuries or illness due to the incident.
At most, there were some parents and faculty who were inconvenienced by the sudden nature of the school closure.
“Some students and employees came into work only to be turned around and sent home.” Says Hawkins.
To be on the safe side, Hawkins says the Fall River School District is delaying opening school by two hours tomorrow. He says if the buses don’t work again tomorrow they’ll call around 7:15 a.m.