Below zero temps cause havoc with everything

By Marcie Klomp

As if the cold temperatures and blowing snow this winter aren’t frustrating enough, folks have to worry about frozen pipes as well.

Lime Springs Public Works Director Casey Sebastian maintains, “If you haven’t had a problem with frozen pipes in the past, you are probably okay.” That doesn’t mean a person shouldn’t err on the side of caution.

A&K Feed & Grain is a perfect example. In the past 30 years, the business has only experienced frozen pipes three times—last week being the third time. They had a line frozen 125-130 feet from the office, nearly to the water main. Part of this has been the extreme cold, but it is also the depth of the frost.

Dale Ptacek said the company that helped A&K has special equipment. “He has a hose that goes in the inside of the line and has a jet tip to push it into the pipe. It also warms the water to 95 degrees to help thaw it.”

As cold as snow is, it is an insulator, so when snow is piled on the ground above water lines, they are pretty safe from freezing. Sebastian explained, “In Cresco, they just had a water main break. They found the frost line was almost six feet deep. Where the snow is piled up, the frost line is at eight or 10 or 12 inches.”

Cresco has had quite a few breaks this year, around 10. Most of those have been in areas that are not snow covered, such as roads or parking lots.

Rick Slifka of Fisk’s Farm and Home said sales on heat tape have been higher than normal this winter. Heat tape is one solution to keeping pipes from freezing. Another way is to take the temperature of the water coming out of the tap. If it is under 40 degrees, it might be time to start periodically running the water or leaving a steady stream going at all times.

Even those with geothermal are feeling the difference. Jill Johnson of Johnson Comfort Systems said, “The loop temperatures are colder than they’ve ever been. That means the furnaces have to run longer.”

People need to stay vigilant even after the outside temperature rises. Sebastian notes, “Actually the frost gets thicker before it comes out of the ground.” That means the tap water should continue to be monitored for up to a month or more.

In the long run, spending a little more on a water bill will probably be less expensive than having to have a specialist come in to thaw your pipes.

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