Minnesota thaw: Pipe-burst reports rise with temperature

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Minnesota plumbers are eagerly watching the temperature climb, as calls for pipe-burst repairs rise like thermometer mercury when the region comes out of a deep freeze.

Plumbers around the Twin Cities worked through the night, KSTP reported Friday morning.

"I just saw water pouring out of this light fixture," said KSTP's own live truck technician Tim Zelenak, who was dealing with a pipe that burst in his own home Thursday.

At issue is a problem likely to be breaking out all over the state during a weekend thaw: Water in pipes freezes during a subzero spell, expanding and creating more pressure than pipes can handle. In many cases, the ice-clogged pipes then split or burst during a warm-up.

The result the sickening sound of water flowing where it should not be – all too familiar to many Minnesota homeowners. Even small cracks can flood multiple rooms in just a few minutes, KSTP notes.

Government agencies and businesses face the same problem as homeowners. Thawing pipes were blamed this week in downtown Duluth for a pipe burst in the Holiday Center, where five stores and restaurants were flooded. The 8th St. Grill in downtown Minneapolis was among the metro businesses that dealt with burst pipes.

The Minnesota Department of Health suffered damage to its infectious disease and environmental laboratories after its heating system failed early this week, causing water and freezing damage to equipment, the Star Tribune reported.

Broken municipal water mains have been reported around the state in recent days, from Faribault to Rochester and Milaca.

Plumbers, insurance companies and other home repair experts have lots of tricks and tips for homeowners hoping to avoid frozen pipes. Here's one interesting Q and A in the New York Times this week with plumbing expert William B. Rose, a senior researcher at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, who among other tips, advises that homeowners leave their faucets open.

Above all, one plumber tells Popular Mechanics, "find out which local plumbers are equipped and ready to handle frozen pipes.”

A few other preventative tips from Nationwide Insurance:

Open cabinets under kitchen and bathroom sinks to keep warm air circulating around pipes.

Insulate pipes in areas that don't get warm air with sleeves or wrapping. Foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves can be found at hardware stores.

Seal gaps and cracks in your home’s outside walls or foundation with caulk to keep cold air away from pipes.

Drain your pipes in summer homes – turn off the main water valve and then turn on all taps until the pipes are empty.

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