The bone-chilling weather that will continue through inauguration day contributed yesterday to hundreds of broken water pipes in Washington area, difficulties in fighting a spectacular five in Bethesda, and a cutback in supplies in natural gas to Virginia firms, principally in the southern part of the state.
Nationally, the extraordinary winter frose oranges hanging on trees in Florida, where area residents go for relief from cold winters and dropped 6 inches of snow in Mississippi.
In Fairfax Circuit Court, jurors sat through a civil suit wearing coats, shawls, and gloves - the result of a boiler failure Monday night that left same courtrooms frigid.
Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin asked President Ford to declare the Virginia portions of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries a disaster area, as ice 18 inches thick kept commercial fishing frozen solid and the Coast Guard busy convoying ships slowly through a narrow channel cut through the ice.
The National Weather Services predicted highs in the low 20s today, with a chance of snow falling on Jimmy Carter's inaugural parade on Thursday. The low Tuesday night was a comparatively pleasant 10 degrees above zero, compared to the 2 degrees above zero recorded Monday morning at National Airport.
The freezing temperatures affected rich and poor, suburban and inner city dwellers with chilling impartiality. In Bethesda, workmen yesterday morning used blowtorches in an atempt to unfreeze water pipes in the Manor Apartment House at 14205 Georgia Avenue - and started a $6,000 three-alarm fire that left 30 families homeless und took firefighters more than three hours to control. No one was injured.
In the District of Columbia, Salvation Army workers were besieged by an extraordinarily high number of requests for food and shelter and clothing from people numbered by the cold, according to a spokesman.
The continued impact of the weather apparently lay behind the vastly increased number of telephone calls to the Montgomery County Hotline, whose trained volunteers deal with a wide variety of emotionally troubled callers, according to its director, Harriet Guttenberg.
"People seem to feel cursed by the weather, and little things become overwhelming," she said. "They don't know what to attribute the cold weather to, and they don't know how to cope with it. They want to know how long it will go on," she said.
In addition, the Federal Power Commission late yesterday gave Columbia Gas Transmission Corp., the major supplier of natural gas to the Washington area, permission to import 250 million cubic feet of gas a day from Canada.
The Canadian gas will cost more than the U.S.-regulated price Columbia now pays for gas and while there may be some upward pressure on local gas prices, it is expected to be very small.
The company got swift commission action on its request, made necessary by the cold wave that has strained gas supplies.
The National Weather Service said the subfreezing weather will continue at least until the end of the week - something that may prove to be bad news for area residents whose water pipes have not yet burst.
"When water freezes is expands," explained a spokesman for Plumbers Union Local No. 6, whose members have been doing yeoman service repairing burst pipes in the past week. "The expansion causes pipes to crack, unless they are insulated against the cold which few pipes in this area are," he said.
Marjorie Johnson, speaking for the Washington Suburban Sanitray Commission, suggested residents worried about freezing pipes could use hair dryers or towels, to warm pipes.
People planning on using such patch-work methods of keeping warm as free-standing electric heaters, Franklin stoves, or ovens kept burning all night should never leave such potential fire hazards unattended during the night, according to Sgt. Rodney White of the Montgomery County Fire & rescue Service.
"If you're really worried about the cold, then sleep in shifts during the night, so one person is always awake," he suggested.
The Virginia State Corporation Commission has ordered a shut-off of natural gas to commercial clients who have an alternative energy source, and a 25 per cent cutback in natural gas supplies to commercial clients who do not have additional resources, GOv. Godwin announced yesterday.
A SCC spokesman later said the action would not effect Northern Virginia business supplied by Washington Gas Light Co.
The state's dwindling natural gas supply has forced the state's fuel oil supplies to a "dangerously low" state, Godwin said, adding that he might later shorten the school year in the state to save on energy resources.
As the coldest winter in a decade grips the Washington metropolitan area, residents are bundling up and bracing themselves for another rising cost - their heating bill.
Thirty-nine-year-old James Edwards, a District of Columbia construction worker, is worried about his next gas heating bill: "I haven't worked in two months and I can imagine that the next bill is going to be really big," he said.
"When the wind blows, that's it - it is really cold. This house is not insulated and the wind whips right through it," he said of his two-story frame house at 1245 W St. SE.
Edwards, his wife and step'daughter have lowered their thermostat and cut back on excessive use, but Edwards said his bills are still between $80 and $90 a month for the house. He pays $165-a-month for rent.
Edwards is using more fuel because of the extremely cold winter and is paying for it at a higher cost.
"It's ironic," according to a Washington Gas Light Co. spokesman, "that we were asking for an increase at the beginning of the year because of warm weather and rising costs, and now we have a very cold winter."
Those Washington area gas consumers are paying as much as 10 per cent more as the result of recent rate increases granted by area public utility commissions. Those residents using heating oil, according to one major oil supplier spokesman, also are paying 10 per cent more due to rising costs of that product. Those area residents using electrical heating - except those in most of Virginia - are paying more than 7 per cent more because of recent rate rises granted by area utility commissions.
The other problem Edwards and other area residents face due to the cold snap is that they must use more gas, oil or electricity to keep their homes at comfortable temperatures.
A Washington Gas Light Commpany spokeswoman said consumption this winter was up 17 per cent compared to last winter.
A major local fuel oil distributor spokesman said his company has witnessed a 48 per cent increase in consumption this winter compared to last.
A Potomac Electricity Power Company spokeswoman said consumption has increased by 25 per cent when Novembers for 1975 and 1976 are compared.
A Virginia Electric and Power Company spokesman said "consumption is way up, but did not have any figures.
While temperatures continue to plunge and consumption is generally increasing areawide, one Bethesda family, has kept its thermostat set on 68 degrees.
"I must admit, when I go into homes that are really warm, I get pretty annoyed because they are using more than their share of energy," said Martha Knouss, 30, who was wearing a green sweater as she undressed her Christmas tree.
According to Mrs. Knouss, her family - which includes her husband and 1-year-old child - paid a gas bill of $38.32 in January, 1975 compared to a bill of $45.72 in January, 1976.
In Prince George's County another family also using gas heat, complains they have turned the thermostat down to 60, put on coats and sweaters and still are receiving higher bills.
"We are biting the bullet and freezing to death in this house and our heating bill is still going up," said Kathryn Bioleau, 35, a Brentwood housewife who recently returned to work to help her husband pay bills.
She compared the December, 1976, bill and found that she paid an increase of $20 in last year's bill.
A family in Virginia that uses electricity to heat its home - said it pays heating bills ranging between $90 and $100.
"It is terrible. It is a rip-off. Our electric bill is higher than gas bills and they are still raising the rates," said Fairfax County resident who lives in a Covington Townhouse home.
The resident, who asked not to be identified because he is a former employee for a utility company, said "we are paying too much for electric heating."
Also contributing to this story were Washington Post staff writers Alice Bonner, Bill McAllister and Caryle Murphy.