By John Toth
I had visions of February 2021 as the arctic front approached before Christmas. The scenes of pipes bursting, ceilings being torn out, water being turned off, and the temperature staying below freezing for days were still fresh in my mind.
I forgot to mention the ice, power being turned off and the cold, dark nights in the house. It was the perfect storm of power grid mismanagement and Mother Nature’s way of testing the strength of our house’s copper water pipes.
Drip the faucets, they said. We did. The pipes still froze, and the city’s water tanks emptied. It adds up when everyone lets the faucets drip.
Those were some of the memories in the forefront of my mind as it became obvious that we were going to be having another one of these subfreezing weather events.
I thought that last year they said that this was a once-in-100-years occurrence. But here it came, from Russia to Canada, as it slowly reached down all the way to the Texas Gulf Coast.
Friends on Facebook who live in areas where subfreezing temperatures are normal in winter were wondering what the excitement was about.
I tried to explain. Houses are built differently up north than here, where it’s rare that the temperature drops to under 20F. If it does, it’s only for a short time, and the heated house helps keep the pipes warm. But last year, there was no power, no heat. The pipes stopped dripping and froze.
My nervousness increased as the front approached. What to do?
I checked with some plumbing sites on the Internet. They recommended turning the water off and draining the pipes.
I read the instructions on how to get most of the water out of the lines without using an air compressor to blow all the water out. The water remaining would not be under pressure and could expand as the temperature dropped. I hoped that none of it would be in the pipe joints, where the frozen water would have a chance of cracking the pipe.
I learned a lot from last year’s mess. I wrapped the outside pipes in old socks and plastic shopping bags and left to save The Bulletin hideaway near San Antonio, where it was predicted to get even colder.
I was growing more anxious about what was about to take place. The waiting was probably the worst part, as the weather reporters reminded us that the cold is coming, along with Santa Claus.
This was the same feeling I have when a hurricane is approaching. I woke up thinking about the cold front, and I went to sleep worrying about it. Perhaps if February 2021 didn’t happen, the anxiety would have been less. But it did happen. Would it happen again?
The problem with draining the pipes is that we’re left without running water. But, at least it is not running out of the guest room ceiling. That’s a good thing. I filled the bathtub almost to the top with water before shutting off all of the main line. That’s how we would flush the toilet.
Then it was showtime. The power stayed on. San Antonio TV urged everyone to turn their thermostats to 58F. I’m sorry, but that was not going to happen.
My nervousness subsided as it became obvious that this was not going to be another February 2021. The pipes should be able to survive this time unscathed. It was time to enjoy family and Christmas and ignore those 19F morning temperatures. They didn’t last all that long.
Now for the grand finale - how did the pipes in Angleton hold up? Upon returning, I slowly turned on the main valve, listening for unusual sounds, like water spraying onto the attic ceiling.
At first, there was the sweet sound of water flowing through the pipes and then silence. It was a big relief. We survived another deep freeze, although not as deep as in 2021. Did the freeze cause any problems at your house? What did you do to avoid another 2021 disaster?
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