Ithaca Fire Department has tips for safely thawing frozen pipes

Tompkins Weekly Staff

Recent temperatures have been frigid, turning Tompkins County into a frozen wonderland. The waterfalls of the local gorges have become giant icicles and plows continue to clear the snowy roads. Meteorologist Mike Wysocki, from the Northeast Regional Climate Center, detailed a major winter storm that hit the East Coast over the weekend.

“An Arctic air mass has a firm grip on two thirds of the eastern U.S. today,” Wysocki said in a recent press release. “There are wind chill advisories or warnings for much of this region with wind chills of -20 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit forecasted for the northern half and -5 to -15 degrees Fahrenheit for the southern half. Since the Arctic air has reached the coastal regions, any little coastal storm system will be enhanced due to the large contrast in temperature and moisture between the land and water.”

Last week Wysocki predicted possibly record-breaking low temperatures for Friday night and Saturday morning, along with gusty winds. With the extreme cold temperatures, some county residents may be experiencing frozen pipes and the Ithaca Fire Department wants to warn residents how they can safely thaw their pipes, and what “tricks” to avoid.

“Homeowners who experience a frozen pipe can try to thaw the line safely by using a hair dryer,” said the IFD in a Facebook post last week. “Thawing won’t be fast, but it will be safe. Set your hairdryer to high heat and blast away, holding the dryer a few inches from the pipe until your water returns. Pipes conduct heat extremely well, so even if the freeze is behind a wall, you can usually thaw it out. Just note that this can take 30-45 minutes (sometimes more) to work.”

What shouldn’t residents do?
1. Never use an open flame or torch to try and thaw frozen pipes.
2. Don’t leave pipes in the process of thawing unattended.
3. When in doubt call a plumber or heating contractor to safely thaw the pipes and make any necessary repairs.

But there is good news on the horizon.
“Most forecast models are indicating a rapid warming starting Sunday night into Wednesday with highs reaching 32 degrees Fahrenheit for much of the Northeast ­– a return to more seasonal temperatures for next week,” Wysocki said.