Frigid temperatures are causing frozen pipes and other plumbing problems in Carroll and, with a bitterly low wind chill expected later this week, members of the community are encouraged to take steps to avoid further issues.
Carrolltowne Elementary School was closed Tuesday — the first day back for students after winter break — to repair a broken water line. The repair was completed by Tuesday, Jon O’Neal, assistant superintendent of administration, said, and the school was set to reopen on Wednesday.
O’Neal said Tuesday the water-line break was discovered when the building supervisor and operating department went to check on the school before students returned, something that happens routinely after a break or even a long weekend. This type of issue has happened before, he said, adding that it’s not uncommon with the current weather.
“The freezing conditions aren’t helping,” he said.
Plumbing issues aren’t confined to CCPS, as even high temperatures in Carroll have remained at or well below freezing for most of the past week.
Across the municipalities, calls for frozen pipes or water breaks have been coming in during the recent cold snap. Cory Stouffer, a group leader in Westminster’s Utility Maintenance Department, said the city experienced water-main breaks over the past couple of days, and had numerous leaks reported by private citizens throughout town.
Union Bridge saw two issues Tuesday morning, Mount Airy received calls Tuesday in regard to frozen pipes, Taneytown had no water main breaks, but had homeowners call about frozen pipes and Manchester had a water main break last week.
Pat Scheper, a master plumber and part-owner and vice president of Apple Plumbing & Heating Inc., said because of the weather, their company has been getting a lot of calls about cold-related plumbing issues.
“We’re really slammed today,” Scheper said Tuesday.
They’ve been getting calls for frozen pipes, for frozen sewer lines and more, he said. A lot of people who are new to their homes don’t know where the cold spots are yet, he added.
With the cold temperatures, it’s important to try to take precaution to prevent pipes from freezing, he said. Ways to prevent problems include keeping cabinet doors on sinks open so heat can get to the pipes.
If people know they have a cold spot, Scheper said, they can also turn the water on a drip to keep liquid flowing through the pipe.
Homeowners should also make sure hoses are disconnected from outside faucets, and water to those outside faucets should be turned off, Scheper said.
If pipes freeze, but don’t burst, Scheper said people should open the faucet so when the pipe thaws, it can flow through. But, he added, sometimes it can burst without you knowing, because the water inside is still frozen.
“You don’t know it bursts until the pipe thaws,” Scheper said.
He also said if someone has a frozen pipe, they can try to thaw it themselves using a hair dryer, starting where the pipe isn’t frozen and heating from the warm spot to the cold spot. If a person tries to heat where the ice is, part of it can melt and expand, and can burst the pipe that way.
“It’s probably best to call a plumber,” Scheper added.
Scheper also recommended getting in touch with a home restoration company and your insurance right away if pipes burst and there’s a flood.
Calling immediately can help cut down on the wait time for a repair, he said.
“If your pipe is frozen and busts, chances are a lot of other people’s are too,” Scheper added.
Frozen pipes and other plumbing ailments could continue as temperatures are expected to drop into the single digits at night this week. While Wednesday could see a bit of warmth, relatively speaking, with temperatures in the 20s, nearing 30 degrees, Wednesday night could see snow and Thursday could see gusty winds, Brandon Fling, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of the Sterling, Virginia office, said.
Carroll County isn’t expected to see precipitation Wednesday — most snow is looking like it will hit southern Maryland, he said — but Thursday’s winds are expected to gust to more than 30 mph, making it feel 10 to 20 degrees colder than the actual temperature, and high wind is expected to continue through Friday and Saturday. Fling said high temperatures Friday are looking like they’ll be in the high teens dropping into single-digits that night and highs in the teens again Saturday before warming slightly on Sunday.