Preparing for the temperature drop

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | 6:27 p.m. CST; updated 8:53 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 14, 2009
MU students Joe Kennedy and Dustin Copple warm up around a fire they built in a bonfire ring in Stephens Lake Park on Wednesday. "I live right up the road, so we come down here a lot to take advantage of the free firewood and just hang out," Kennedy said.

COLUMBIA — On a cold day like today, the question is, how are your pipes?

With an overnight low of  minus 1 predicted — without the wind chill — and a high Thursday of 12 degrees, Columbia plumbers, heating repairmen and auto parts dealers are expecting a busy day.

The National Weather Service in St. Louis issued a wind chill advisory Wednesday for central Missouri, including Boone County, in effect from midnight Wednesday until noon Thursday.

Gusty northwest winds of 15 to 25 mph can be expected. Cold air and wind will make it feel like it is between minus 15 and minus 24.

Russ Duker, president of MasterTech Plumbing, said that during extreme weather, the call he is most likely to get is about toilets and kitchen faucets without water because of frozen pipes. He said he planned to have an extra person on call Wednesday night.

Ignoring the situation means that by Friday, when things begin to thaw out, people will "find a busted pipe with water squirting all over the place," Duker said.


To help prevent frozen pipes and the flooding that can follow, Duker suggests:

1.    Make sure all hoses and attachments are detached from outside spigots.

2.    Check the crawl space of your home and make sure there are no places open to the wind.

3.    If pipes have frozen at your house before, allow the water to drip at night.

4.    If you own a vacant house, check to see that the heat is on and all water is shut off.

Steve Oetker, with the service department for Star Heating and Air Conditioning Co., said he was expecting a busy Thursday but cold weather in December had already prepared people.  

“We’re steady busy, not swamped, because there have been some other cold snaps this winter,” Oetker said. In other words, if someone has had a problem with a faulty furnace, it has probably already been addressed.  

Regular maintenance on furnaces is crucial to ensuring minimal problems.  During cold weather, motors, igniters and electronic parts are more likely to fail. But Oetker said most furnaces are built to endure harsh winters and should hold up.

To help prevent heating problems, Oetker suggests:

1. Perform egular maintenance of furnaces, including changing filters, checking gas pressure and inspecting the burner.

2. Check liquefied petroleum levels on gas tanks (in the county).

3. Check borders around doors and windows to make sure they are as well-insulated as possible.  

Cars also need a little extra attention when temperatures are below freezing. Justin Glasgow, manager at Meineke Car Care Center, suggests:

1.    Let your car run for a couple of minutes before driving, which helps circulate fluids and gets pumps working.

2.    Check the battery strength.

3.    Check anti-freeze coolant levels.

4.    Check tire pressure at least once a month. Pressure changes drastically with temperature changes.

This is by no means the end of the cold temperatures, predicted Gregg Suhler, managing member with Dynamic Predictables, a Columbia company that makes climate predictions. Suhler said he uses physical models to predict weather for the next few months. He said central Missouri might see cooler weather than the average for February and March. “Need to be thinking in terms of cold,” he said.


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