Sub-Zero Blast: Bitter Cold Chills Vermont

Many in Vermont woke up Thursday to temperatures 10 to 20 degrees below zero

The National Weather Service cancelled its wind chill warning for Vermont Thursday afternoon as temperatures slowly but steadily rose above zero. The state woke up to temperatures far below zero; 20 below or lower in some locations, and around 10 below in many Champlain Valley communities. Even high temperatures Thursday seemed biting, with the air in the single digits to mid-teens across much of the Green Mountain State.

Vermont's Bolton Valley Resort canceled night skiing Thursday and had limited lift operations due to the cold weather and wind. "It's a little uncomfortable," said Baron Bui, who was part of a group from the Boston area braving the bitter cold to ski and ride.

Bui and his friend, Danny Nguyen, said they were wearing extra layers and taking long breaks between runs to warm up. "We're New Englanders," Nguyen said. "It happens every year."

Killington Resort tweeted a photo of a sub-zero thermometer and the message "Be smart today-- we'd rather see you Friday."

The truth is, any ski area would rather have a blast of extreme cold than rain. "If you look at it from a business perspective, rain will hurt you for a few days down the road as far as losing terrain and things like that," said Bolton Valley's Josh Arneson. "Whereas with cold, you see less visitation, but then it rebounds. Once the temperatures come up, people come back out and the terrain's still in great shape, so it's not too bad."

Arneson noted that he was glad the cold snap didn't swallow a whole weekend, or worse--a holiday weekend. Those are, of course, much more critical to the ski industry.

The appropriately-named Al Frost of the Outdoor Gear Exchange on Burlington's Church Street Marketplace said he has noticed less foot traffic on the outdoor mall the past few days when the arctic air was in place. Still, Frost said his store has seen a steady stream of customers looking for hats, gloves, and hand warmers.

"We have to keep pulling them out from the warehouse; we've made extra orders," Frost said of the hand warmers. "People just can't get enough."

Tim Trombley with Benoure Plumbing and Heating said his team has been out straight with emergency service calls in the Burlington area. "The guy who was on call last night never made it home," Trombley told New England Cable News. "Everybody's out. We're taking people off of jobs and putting them on the frozen pipes and the [calls for no heat]."

The following information on dealing with frozen pipes is from the website of the American Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/prepare):

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes - even ¼" of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.

During Cold Weather, Take Preventative Action

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

To Thaw Frozen Pipes

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber. 
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Future Protection

  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
  • Pipes can be relocated by a professional if the home is remodeled.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • For more information, please contact a licensed plumber or building professional.
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