UP THE CREEK
February 1, 2007
As this is written, the outside temperature has crept above freezing for the first time in about two weeks. By the time you read this, we could be back in the deepfreeze again, or sweltering (it’s easy to swelter after that cold spell - even 34° feels balmy). We’ll need to await the judgement of Punxatawney Phil before making any long range predictions. But Phil, the U.S. Official Groundhog, might not even make it into the daylight to look for his shadow. If things in Punxatawney are like they are here, his burrow is probably frozen shut. In fact, if it is not deep enough, he himself is frozen solid. And that brings us to the topic of this newsletter.
It’s been a few years since Jack Frost has turned his attention to our banana belt. Some of us may have forgotten the wintertime ground rules. It may seem like the worst is over. After all, it’s February. But in February, the worst is never over. Late Winter Water Wisdom follows:
• Don’t assume, because the surface of the ground has turned to muck, that the deeper layers are warmer too. February is actually the worst month for underground water pipes to freeze. The old timers around here swear that sunshine “drives the frost down.” I don’t contradict that, as it seems to work just that way. The bottom line is, if you have been leaving a little water run to prevent pipes freezing, you’d better let it run through February, even though it might seem like winter is gone.
• Don’t leave the lid(s) off your meter pit. The meter pit covers have two lids with an air space between. This design does a pretty good job of insulating the meter from even the coldest weather providing there is some water being used. If the meter sits dead long enough in zero-type temperatures, it’s gonna freeze and break no matter what. And, as pointed out above, sunny days don’t indicate what’s going on underground. If there are three feet of frozen dirt surrounding your meter pit, it can freeze on a very nice day.
• If you are returning from a warm vacation and did not turn your water off before leaving (shame on you), your meter may have frozen. If so, you are lucky if pipes in your house didn’t freeze also. If you suspect the meter is frozen, call us. We would prefer to thaw it ourselves, having past experience with customers attacking them with weed burners, flaming gasoline, and the like. But, if you are desperate, there is one safe and quick way to thaw out a meter: wad up one (1) sheet of newspaper, such as the editorial page of the Daily Senile, light it afire and drop it to the bottom of the meter pit. When it has burned out, put the lids on the pit and wait. This always works. Repeat if necessary, but you’ll have to replenish the air in the pit before the second attempt. If you can’t figure out a way to do that, you’ll have to call us after all.
We assume that our weather will moderate and all this ice talk will be irrelevant again. That all depends on furry Phil and what he sees when he claws his way up through the frost to look for the sun. The cold, cold ground might be the reason he always seems to be peeved during the official ceremony - ever notice the welder’s gloves worn by his handlers? Or maybe he just woke up on the wrong side of the burrow.