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Pipe bursts expected as temperatures rise

Published: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 4:10 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 4:52 p.m. CDT

CRYSTAL LAKE – The recent cold spell is about to break, and local fire departments are expecting some pipes to do the same.

As temperatures rise and pipes begin to thaw, the chances for leaks and breaks signficantly increase. Fire departments already have started responding to some pipes bursting, but officials know the worst is yet to come.

"Locate the valve where you can shut off the water supply coming into the house now before there is a problem," said Tim Butler, fire prevention bureau director for McHenry, minutes after receiving a call about a pipe break. "People think it's the cold that can cause the most problems, but it's right after."

For residents who have frozen pipes, Butler said it is important to be cautious when attempting to thaw the sections.

Thawing options include using a space heater in the room where pipes are located or soaking towels in hot water and wrapping them around cold sections of the pipes and turning the faucet on so water can drip out.

Butler said methods such as using electrically heated tape can be dangerous because of the fire hazards. A drastic temperature change also can cause the pipes to burst.

Paul DeRaedt, deputy fire chief for Crystal Lake, said it is possible that pipes still could be freezing in some buildings. He said residents should still run water at a stream equal to the width of a pencil to prevent a frozen pipe.

"Most cases when a pipe is subject to freezing is when it is near an exterior wall like a kitchen sink," he said. "It's important to monitor the temperature for those."

Terry Menzel, deputy fire chief for Woodstock, said there is little that can be done in some cases. One of the two calls the Woodstock Fire Department has responded to so far was for an apartment complex where the sprinkler system in the main lobby froze and started to leak.

"It's much more difficult in an area where there is a constant cold draft coming in like the main lobby where the door is always opening and closing," he said. "There is not much more that they can do."

One simple tip all fire officials suggested was keeping cabinet doors underneath sinks open to allow heat inside.

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