Rash of cold weather increases chance of having frozen pipes

No problems with water main breaks so far

ALPENA — The Arctic weather that has blanketed Northeast Michigan the last several days has increased the chance of water lines freezing or bursting.

According to officials, however, there have been few instances reported of pipes freezing.

Record and near record low temperatures have gripped the area, but Suez Utility Manager Mike Glowinski said he has received only two calls from residents who had their pipes freeze. He said there have been some water line breaks in the city, but overall there have been few issues.

“We have a decent amount of insulating snow, so that helps somewhat,” Glowinski said.

City Engineer Rich Sullenger said there were several water main breaks earlier in the winter and before Alpena received much of the snow it has. He said the frost is about two to three feet into the ground, which may have caused the ruptures. Sullenger said when new water and sewer lines are installed they are put in about five feet from the surface, which is typically enough to avoid the damage frost can cause.

“We really haven’t had a lot of reports of frozen lines and the water main breaks were in the fall and early winter,” He said.

The frigid temperatures are expected to linger well into next week and the threat of pipes freezing will remain. Glowinski said there is no plan to issue a running water advisory at this time, but if there is a rash of frozen pipes and employees can’t keep up with a response, one could be issued later.

“If we can keep up with the ones that we encounter, generally we will continue to try to thaw them without issuing the advisory. If we get overwhelmed, then we could order it,” Glowinski said.

Glowinski said there are several things people can do in their homes to help prevent pipes from freezing. He said basement windows should be checked to be sure there aren’t drafts coming though them. Placing pipe insulation on the pipes also can prevent freezing, Glowinski said. He said if a pipe freezes the best way to thaw it is to use a hair dryer on high temperature. Glowinski said the location of the freeze should be easy to find because there will be frost on the outside of the pipe.

“Just run the blow dryer in a back and forth motion and it will thaw,” he said. “Just don’t use an open flame because that creates a fire hazard.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.