City crews, plumbers cross fingers on frozen pipe risk
City of High Point Public Services Department crews and property owners across the city hope this week’s cold wave won’t cause a repeat of disruption from frozen pipes and water lines like two weeks ago.
During the last extreme cold weather in early January, city crews and private plumbing companies worked long hours repairing pipes that ruptured. On Jan. 7-8, city crews responded to 71 work orders from reports of no water service because of frozen pipes.
“That’s very unusual to have that much in a two-day period,” said Patrick Martin, a water/sewer service dispatcher for the city.
Since the first of the year, the city has responded to 18 broken water mains, according to Public Services Department records.
But through late Wednesday afternoon, the latest round of bitterly low temperatures hasn’t resulted in widespread water line problems. Martin, as well as a dispatcher for the city’s emergency communications office, said there had been no reports of serious problems from water line breaks since temperatures plunged into the teens early Wednesday.
Two weeks ago, the last cold wave caused water line and pipe problems in two classroom buildings at High Point University and at an apartment complex in north High Point, which partially collapsed. Also, city crews spent nearly a day repairing a ruptured water line at W. Lexington Avenue and Kentucky Street. There were no serious injuries in any of the incidents.
So far this week, overnight temperatures haven’t dipped as low as two weeks ago, when lows were in the single digits.
Martin told The High Point Enterprise that many water line problems happen when temperatures shift noticeably in a relatively short period of time.
“Normally it’s when you have a drastic change in temperature, or lots of vehicles going over a line (causing vibrations),” Martin said.
The risk for water line problems might increase this weekend, since temperatures through Friday aren’t supposed to climb much above freezing. But on Saturday and Sunday, highs may reach into the mid-40s.
“Normally it happens in a change in temperature in the 15- to 20-degree range,” Martin said. “But since (low) temperatures tapered off compared to two weeks ago, we may not have as many problems.”
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Coping in the cold
Here are tips about coping in the extreme cold that will sap the High Point area through Friday:
• Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.
• Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia, such as confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
• Watch for symptoms of frostbite, including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness or waxy feeling skin.
• Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to an unfrozen water source.
• Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least 3 feet away from the burner element.
• Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
Source: American Red Cross