Plumbers battle frozen pipes as freezing temperatures start to diminish

Monday, January 6, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. CST; updated 6:07 p.m. CST, Monday, January 6, 2014

COLUMBIA — The Arctic outbreak that left plumbers scrambling to help with frozen pipes has begun to ease.

"Our phone's been ringing off the hook," Jerry Hall, general manager of Mastertech Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, said Monday morning.

Weather closings

Columbia Public Schools will remain closed Tuesday.

Columbia Independent School, Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School will open at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Rob Marrone, owner of Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service in Mid-Missouri, said about 75 percent of the calls he'd received were about frozen water lines.

He said residents with frozen and cracked pipes should remain vigilant as temperatures rise above freezing. Breaks that go unnoticed initially can leak and cause damage once temperatures rise above freezing, Marrone said.

The National Weather Service on Monday afternoon canceled the wind chill warning in effect for Boone County and replaced it with a wind chill advisory until 10 a.m. Tuesday. Temperatures overnight were forecast to remain dangerously cold, however, with wind chills as low as minus 22.

National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett said a "warming trend" will emerge over this week, with temperatures predicted to reach the 40s by the weekend.

More snow is expected on Wednesday night before temperatures rise later in the week. "Nothing like what we saw last night," Truett said. "A couple inches is what we're looking at."

Protecting pipes

Hall said that, typically, older homes with pipes in crawl spaces are more often affected by the cold. Repair costs can range from $200 to $300 to repair a single line under a crawl space to upwards of $1,000 for multiple breaks, he said.

In most cases, Marrone said, residents report frozen pipes before they've broken and before there's been any water damage. "Most of the time you can thaw them out and there's no problem," he said.

In one of the worst cases Hall worked, a pipe came apart in an older home causing water to run down the side of the residence and create a pool of water near the street. "It looked like an ice skating rink off the side of the street," he said.

Cold weather was behind three pipe bursts at MU on Monday morning: one in Engineering Building West and two in the Medical Science Building. Karlan Seville, spokeswoman for Campus Facilities, said all three pipes were repaired, and there was no water damage.

Campus Facilities was still cleaning up on Monday after a water pipe burst due to freezing temperatures in Clark Hall on Dec. 24. The accident caused 1,000 gallons of water to leak out.

The first, sixth and eighth floors, where Mizzou Online and the School for Health Professions are located, were affected. The leak caused $50,000 to $75,000 in damages, Seville said.

On the first floor, four rooms used by Mizzou Online were damaged. One room needs a new computer, furniture, flooring and ceiling, said Gera Burton, co-director of Mizzou Online.

Megan Gill, a director of strategic communications for the School of Health Professions, said the west side of sixth and eighth floors were wet; the east side of the floors were relatively dry. 

“They have taken baseboards off and are now making sure that everything is dry before they put it back together so they don’t have any mold,” Gill said.

To prevent pipes from freezing, the Columbia Water and Light recommends that residents open cabinet doors under their sinks and allow faucets to slowly drip if they have pipes exposed to unheated areas. Homeowners should also leave their thermostat at a minimum of 60 degrees.

If pipes do freeze, the department recommends adding heat using a space heater, blow dryer or electric heating pad. As the water thaws, faucets should remain turned on.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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