I’ve weathered severe winter storms before. They’re a fact of life where I’ve lived. Pennsylvania regularly gets lake effect snow, and western Nebraska gets a few feet each year thanks to cold air from the Rockies meeting warm, wet air from the Gulf of Mexico. North Dakota’s primary climate is winter and temperatures regularly fall to -20 or lower.
When I heard from the National Weather Service that Texas was in the crosshairs of an arctic blast, I knew just what to do — break out extra blankets and flashlights, fill the car’s gas tank, charge electronic devices and additional batteries, and leave water running in sinks and showers.
We managed quite well, at least through Tuesday night. Before turning in at 12:30 a.m., I flushed all the lines and made sure the inside bathroom and kitchen lines were dripping. I left the lines in the master bedroom’s bathroom running lightly because three of that room’s walls are outside walls. But five hours later, there was no water in the master bedroom’s bathroom, and the kitchen sink’s cold water line had froze.
Once again, I knew what to do. I opened the lines full blast to try and take pressure off the pipes as the ice thawed. It worked like a charm in the kitchen. We waited a full day longer for the bathroom’s water. Forty minutes after it started flowing, we noticed water pooling around the toilet. Sure enough, we were leaking from a cold water line in the wall behind the toilet.
I called my landlord, Nathan Bell Realtors, and they quickly got me on the list of properties for a visit from Malone Plumbing. The phone lines were burning up as more people got home from work to realize pipes had burst, so I knew I’d have to wait. We put down towels to soak up water until the plumber could get to us.
After a bit, I thought it best to just go ahead and shut off water to the house. The search for an internal main water shutoff valve came up empty handed. I set my sights on the water meter where I knew there was a valve. I dug through the snow, found the meter and popped the lid off. The meter and water lines were completely encased in mud and dirt. Since meters are read digitally now via a port in the lid, no one is opening and cleaning the meter holes.
I removed some mud and dirt while following the pipe for a few inches hoping to find the valve. No luck. I knew it had to be there, but because of the dirt and mud, I couldn’t find it. So, I turned to Facebook to see if any Paris friends knew where the valve was near the meter. A friend from Kiwanis, Gary Pirtle, saw the post and came to help. Together we found the valve and turned the water off.
Malone Plumbing visited my house the next afternoon and restored running water, leak-free, within two hours. Turns out, one pipe behind the toilet cracked enough to spray water like a mist. Fortunately, all other efforts to prevent pipes from bursting were successful.
My sincerest thanks go to Jim Bell at Nathan Bell Realtors and Malone Plumbing for their swift responses, and to Gary Pirtle and all those who responded to my cry for help on social media.
Also, for anyone in a similar or worse situation with your pipes, please be patient with area plumbers. I assure you they are working as fast as they can to get water service restored, no matter how big or little the job.