Cold puts stress on pipes
Water expands when it freezes. This axiom was proven repeatedly over the weekend when frosty temperatures set pipes popping all over Fargo. "We were lucky it wasn't a major water line up there," said Jeff Backen, part-owner of Randy's University ...
Water expands when it freezes.
This axiom was proven repeatedly over the weekend when frosty temperatures set pipes popping all over Fargo.
"We were lucky it wasn't a major water line up there," said Jeff Backen, part-owner of Randy's University Diner in south Fargo, where a cook coming to work at 5 a.m. Sunday discovered water standing on the dining room and kitchen floors.
"It could have been a lot worse, but it (the water) stayed on the tile, and there are drains in the kitchen," said Backen, who added that the problem was a pipe in the space above the ceiling that got too cold and burst.
Workers at Salon Professionals Academy in Fargo encountered a similar situation Saturday morning.
Plumbing on the north side of the school froze, requiring the cancellation of 15 to 20 "colors and highlights," said Janna Johnson, an instructor who was the first to sense a problem when she tried to make her morning coffee.
Fortunately, no pipes broke. They just had to be thawed out, Johnson said.
One Fargo water main sprang a leak over the weekend, but for the most part problems were occurring within buildings, in spots with little insulation or where warm air couldn't reach pipes, said Al Weigel, operations manager for Fargo Public Works.
When it comes to fixing breaks in service lines, the city handles pipes running from the water main to the street curb.
Property owners are responsible for repairs to the service line running from the street to a building.
In emergencies, the city will step in and stabilize a situation, even when it involves a service line the property owner normally takes care of, Weigel said.
The number of water main breaks in Fargo began falling several years ago after the city began an aggressive program to replace aging cast-iron and clay pipes located beneath city streets.
Water main breaks occur in the winter when frost causes soil to shift, and stress is placed on weak joints and valves, Weigel said.
Leaks also occur in the summer months when soil dries out and settles, he added.
Weigel said snow helps reduce freeze-ups because it acts as an insulator, keeping frost from going deep into the ground.
"Out in the roadway, there's no insulation. That's kind of our worst-case scenario," he said.
The National Weather Service is expecting today's high temperature to be around 10 degrees, with a low tonight expected around minus 2.
The high could reach
19 degrees by Wednesday, with a low of 6 degrees Wednesday night.
How to prevent pipes from freezing
Local plumbing and heating experts offer tips to avoid frozen pipes:
- Check furnaces annually and pay attention to general home maintenance, says Ken Wirtz, a Dilworth, Minn., plumber. Insulation in walls and around foundations can shift or become damaged, Wirtz says, allowing freezing air to reach pipes.
- An indoor faucet left dripping can help prevent freeze-up, but Wirtz doesn't advise it. Instead, if a home is left unoccupied Wirtz recommends having the water pipes professionally drained.
- Draining pipes isn't a good option for homes that use hot water for heat, so Paul Dahlin, owner of Moorhead Plumbing and Heating, recommends owners have someone check on the residence regularly.
- Don't leave hoses attached to faucets. Ice can form in the faucet and back up into the house, causing damage, Dahlin said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555