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While Not As Cold As Polar Vortex, Latest Arctic Front Poses Big Risk To Homeowners’ Pipes

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 3:57 PM

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Compared to the arctic deep freeze of early January, this week's cold snap is not as intensely frigid. But it will pose its own significant risks and hazards, including to residential plumbing and water pipes across the region. ideastream's Brian Bull reports.

Photo Gallery

Frozen water pipe (image from flickr.com/jeffreylcohen) Sinks should be left steadily dripping during the cold snap (pic by Brian Bull) Enclosed areas like under sinks should be opened up during the cold spell, in houses warmed to 55 degrees or more (pic: Brian Bull)

Flashback to earlier this month, and the dangerously cold polar vortex that lasted a couple nights.  How does Greg Whitney describe it?

“It was…historic!” chuckles Whitney.  He’s the master licensed plumber for the Cleveland Roto Rooter. He says calls of frozen and broken pipes quickly overwhelmed his staff.

“We could’ve employed 500 plumbers,” continues Whitney. “We had to shut the board down, and stop taking calls in, we had backlogs, just…it was just unmanageable.”

Paul Abrams is spokesman at the national Roto Rooter corporate headquarters in Cincinnati.  He says the company logged 40,000 calls in the week of the polar vortex, compared to 24,000 in a regular week. 

Abrams says this current cold spell isn’t as intense, but will last several days longer. 

“And the risk for frozen pipes is greater, because the longer it stays cold like that….we’re talking about in the teens and even single digits in some areas, that kind of extreme cold combined with wind chill, is the perfect recipe for freezing pipes.”

And when frozen pipes rupture, it can cause thousands of dollars in damage. 

Abrams and Whitney advise keeping the heat on in the house at at least 55 degrees, opening up cabinets and other enclosed areas with water pipes to let the heat in, and keeping faucets running at a trickle to lessen the likelihood of freezing. 

Most hardware stores can offer advice on how to properly insulate pipes for added protection. 


Community/Human Interest, Environment

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