Sunday, February 1, 2004

Pipes burst as temps plunge to record low

By William Weathers
Cincinnati Enquirer

Record-shattering subzero temperatures early Saturday caused a number of water mains to break in Cincinnati and pipes to freeze in homes throughout the Greater Cincinnati area.

"We had five main breaks around 7 a.m.,'' said Dave Rager, director of Greater Cincinnati Water Works.

"Crews have been on 12-hours shifts since Thursday."

Rager estimated there had been about 50 water-main breaks in Cincinnati during the cold snap in the past week.

The mercury dropped to 12 below zero early Saturday, breaking the previous low-temperature record of minus 9 degrees set in 1965.

Why do water-main breaks occur in the teeth-chattering cold?

"When the ground starts to freeze, it moves,'' Rager said. "And if there's a weak point in the (pipe's) metal, it will find it.''

City Water Works received a number of calls Saturday morning from residents complaining of frozen pipes, Rager said.

"They have to call a plumber," he said.

But Rager said there are things residents can do to protect against frozen pipes.

Since pipes in many kitchens are susceptible to freezing because they are in an outside wall, he said to open the doors under the sink so the warm air can get to them.

It also helps to keep a trickle of water running from the tap - "about the size of pencil lead."

Never use an open flame to try to thaw pipes, Rager said.

A hair dryer is a safer option.

Overnight lows were expected to be zero to 5 degrees above.

The high today is forecast in the low 30s, tonight's low is expected to be in the lower 20s.

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