Winter blast leaves hundreds without heat; tow companies working around the clock

Posted at 11:20 PM, Dec 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-19 00:26:05-05
Hundreds across the Omaha area awoke Sunday morning without heat in their homes, on one of the coldest days of the year. 
The weekend is almost over but the cold isn't. 
"We live for this time,” said Charlie Anderson, driver and manager of Auto 1 Towing. 
Heating and air crews, and tow truck drivers, out in droves Sunday as bitter cold caused problems.
"The call volume today is crazy," said Tom Eyman, owner of Eyman Plumbing Heating and Air. 
Eyman is among several Omaha companies overwhelmed by the number of people whose furnaces and boilers don't work.
"You don't need to panic, you need to understand what the situation is,” Eyman said.
One of those who experienced the cold in and outside her home says her family waited several hours for the heat to turn back on. 
"Up until then we were able to see our breath and it was just the longest five hours of our lives,” said Kimberly Eubanks, Bellevue. 
Dressing warm is your best option if the heat hasn’t been turned back on.
"Bad ideas are heating pipes with torches,” Eyman said. “Bad ideas are trying to light your furnace if you don't know what you're doing." 
Temperature extremes stress furnaces, said Scott Getzschman, president of Getzschman Heating and Air Conditioning. 
“When it gets extremely hot, there's more stress,” Getzschman said. “When it gets extremely cold there's more stress.”
Problems from this weekend's cold stretch outside with hundreds of calls for tow trucks. 
"I don't care how new your car is, something could always happen in this cold weather,” Anderson said. “Get a blanket. Keep it in the back, something simple. Hand warmers are a big help and make sure your phone is charged."
If you're stuck in an unheated home, or broke down in frigid conditions, the worst thing you can do is panic, Anderson said.
"Being calm is like the number one thing to begin with,” Anderson said. “If you start to panic, then you want to leave your vehicle, which I don't recommend. Anything can happen."