|Written by Greg Ruland|
|Wednesday, 12 January 2011 00:00|
When record low temperatures ruptured pipes starting New Year’s Eve, some Cottonwood city staff members worked 48 hours straight to shut off the water to more than 100 homes and businesses, Development Services General Manager Dan Lueder said.
According to the National Weather Service, the temperature fell to negative 3 degrees early in the morning New Year’s Day.
As the sun rose, calls started coming in as home and business owners discovered water leaking from exposed pipes under mobile homes or on the sides of buildings, Lueder said.
Many of the problems resulted from pipes exposed to the air in the gap between the floor of a mobile home and the ground. Others came from uninsulated backflow devices.
At businesses, the pipes carrying water to fire sprinkler systems often froze even though the domestic water supply was not affected. In many cases, vacant homes where the heat was not turned on also experienced broken pipes.
The rupture is caused when water in the lines freezes, causing it to expand and break through the plastic or metal tubing that holds it.
The first wave of calls came when people woke up and were unable to shower or use their sinks. A second wave came shortly after 11 a.m. when people called to say, “Oh my god, there’s water flowing everywhere,” a function of water in pipes thawing as temperatures rose, Lueder said.
Despite press releases warning about the impact of winter weather on pipes, “We’ve had a lot of people move to the Verde Valley who refuse to accept that it gets cold here,” he said.
The city had at least 20 people in the field responding to calls as fast as possible throughout the weekend. Many spent the holiday working in the cold to stop the flow of water.
In addition to utilities workers, parks, police and fire officials responded to the leaks, including Lueder himself, who followed a stream of water on Jan. 2 to a local retail store and personally shut the water off.
Lueder joked he was torn between shutting the water off and letting it flow because every gallon means earnings for the city’s water works. Property owners are responsible to pay for all the water that flows through their meter, even if it empties onto the ground as a result of a broken pipe, he said.
Flowing at a rate of 30 gallons per minute under normal circumstances, water from leaks caused by the freeze could make for some very expensive water bills in February, Lueder said.
Only two ruptures were the city’s responsibility. One was under the Old Town Bridge, which was discovered by Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh who was out for a walk on New Year’s Day. That was a relatively easy repair, Lueder said.
Another rupture in a water main on Rio Verde Drive took longer to repair because a 90-degree elbow burst and it was difficult to reach the location of the leak, he said.
Lueder urged property owners who file insurance claims to cover the cost of repairs to also ask for money to pay increases in water bills, a cost sometimes covered by homeowners insurance.
During the Jan. 4 City Council meeting, Bartosh praised city staff for their extra efforts over the holiday.
“It was a challenging week for staff, but we were prepared,” Bartosh told council.
“Crews here did just an incredible job. There were streets and parks people out there helping us handle these. We worked really well with the police and fire departments. It was kind of a total city effort. Most people realize we were working hard to help and they were just glad we were there,” Lueder said.
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