People have flocked to area water sources to get a glimpse of the rare frozen waterfalls, ponds and waterways cause by weeks of below freezing temperatures. But for public works crews in the area, the cold temperatures have caused unwelcome problems.
Several weeks of below freezing temperatures have caused a few municipal water issues in the Yadkin Valley, but with temperatures warming this week, officials were hoping for relief from working hours in the cold air.
Since the couple of weeks before Christmas when the temperatures began dropping, Elkin Public Works Director Robert Fuller said the town crews have had eight water main breaks.
Those breaks aren’t caused by freezing pipes, though, Fuller said. “It is the difference between the temperature of the cast-iron pipe and the extremely cold water running through the pipe.”
He said the only way to avoid those issues is to store the water in underground tanks or heat the water tanks. Those options aren’t feasible in an area where long freezes are atypical.
“Just this last weekend, we had issues with water meters on the southside of Main Street downtown that don’t get sunshine this time of year freezing,” Fuller said.
He thought there were only three or four meters frozen, and Tuesday public works crews could still be found downtown working with heating elements to thaw those elements.
With temperatures expected to jump nearly 20 degrees Tuesday, from highs in the mid-30s and lower Monday and before to the mid-50s Tuesday, Fuller said quick warm-ups can cause issues, but he was hoping those wouldn’t occur Monday afternoon.
He said it isn’t unusual for a homeowner to call the town public works when they have a water issue, and the problem is with the lines between the town meter and the home, which are the homeowners responsibility. But the town crews respond to check for leaks and meter issues anytime they are called to be sure.
In Jonesville, Public Works Director Tim Collins said, “We’ve been lucky so far.
“There has been several small leaks, no main water lines,” he said. “A lot of homeowners have [pipes] busted inside the house. We’ve had a few frozen water meters. Other than that, knock on wood, everything has been pretty good.”
The next biggest concern is the thaw, Collins said, echoing Fuller’s sentiments.
“The ground is expanding and contracting and moving under there,” said Collins. “That can cause some problems.”
Collins and his team monitor the weather in order to be prepared for emergencies.
“We keep an eye on it a couple of weeks out,” said Collins, expecting no major problems from the current cold.
For the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority, which is in charge of the sewer pump stations, underground lines and wastewater treatment for Ronda, Elkin and Jonesville, the cold has caused no issues.
“We are doing very well,” said Susan White, administrative assistant for the sewer authority. “Our pump stations are doing good, our lines are holding very well, and nothing has broken.
“We don’t have water in our lines to expand like the water lines,” she said.
Without any power outages to be concerned with, White said heat tapes have aided in keeping exposed pump stations insulated from the temperatures, and all of the generators have been operational during routine maintenance to ensure power is available.
“We are thankful. I’m glad we don’t have to be out there in the cold,” White said.
Wendy Byerly Wood and Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-835-1513.