Updated: 02/27/2014 7:53 AM KSTP.com By: Tim Sherno
Plumber Nate Petersen prepares a pump to shoot water into the incoming city water line, left pipe, that has been frozen Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at a south Minneapolis home.
Photo: Photo: AP/Jim Mone, File
Our frigid weather is causing a big problem across the Twin Cities metro -- a record number of homes are dealing with frozen pipes, and officials are worried the problem will only get worse.
The city of Shoreview has warned residents to take precautions against frozen water lines. Shoreview Public Works Director Mark Maloney says the number of homes reporting problems is up.
"We're currently aware of about 40 places in the city where it's confirmed that their water service has been frozen," Maloney said.
According to Maloney, this winter's deep freeze is taking a toll.
"The depth of the frost is at near historic levels in some parts of the state right now," Maloney said, adding that frost lines have reached down seven feet in some areas, roughly the depth of many water lines.
Mark Burch, the Public Works Director and City Engineer in White Bear Lake, says there have been 80 homes with frozen water lines in that city. Burch says the deep freeze is a first for many.
"I haven't seen anything like this," he said. "I had one lady call me and said 'I've been in my house for 38 years;' first time it's happened to her."
Plumbers and city work crews have identified a few risk factors that could make a home more susceptible to a water line freeze.
First is to determine if the main water line is on the far side of the street. One way to check is to locate the fire hydrant because they are typically connected to the main water line. If the hydrant is on the far side of the street, a water line would have to travel under a plowed street, and the absence of snow cover allows the cold temps to sink deeper into the ground.
Secondly, homeowners who use little water or are away for a period of time and use no water are at higher risk because the flow of water prevents freezing.
The city of Shoreview sent a card in the mail to residents advising them to check their tap water temperature. If that temperature is 40 degrees or below, the city advises running a tiny stream of water in a basement sink from now until April. The city says a small stream will only add a few dollars to a typical bill but would help prevent the cost of thawing a line.