Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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February 5, 2014

Frozen water pipes and subzero temperatures can disrupt daily routine

— — It is a routine that quickly grows tiresome. Make sure the alarm clock is set to go off an extra 30 minutes early. Resist the temptation to smack the snooze button in hopes of getting an extra 10 minutes of sleep. Get out of bed, walk into the kitchen, and open a bottle of water. Pour the bottled water into the pot strategically sitting on the sink. Turn the stove’s right front burner on, and begin warming — but not boiling — a pot of water.

It’s important to makes sure the water is not too hot, but also not too cold. I found out the hard way one morning last week when I poured a small cup of water over my head — only to find out it was scorching hot. Ouch! I had let the water boil for far too long. So I had to let the water sit and cool down before I could then continue with attempting to wash my hair.

I like — like many others across the region — had to deal with frozen water pipes last week. And I have no idea how this happened. In recent weeks — or ever since the onset of the dreaded polar vortex — I have taken extra steps to ensure that either the bathroom or kitchen faucet is left dripping at night and when I leave home for work each morning. And that was because of all of the arctic air we had to deal with last month. On the night when I came home only to realize that I had no water, I could have sworn I had left the water dripping the morning before. But the faucet appeared to be completely shut. And my television was still on. I also always make an attempt to cut the television off before leaving for work — particularly in light of the fact that my latest electric bill from Appalachian Power was a whopping $230.

But in my morning haste to get to work on time, I can only conclude that I forgot to cut the television off, and may have accidentally cut the water off after feeding the cat. And perhaps the greatest irony is during this particular day at work, I had a conversation with fellow Daily Telegraph staffer and former Mount View High School Golden Knight Rick Fowler about my skill in keeping the water dripping at home during the extreme cold.

Rick and I are one of four employees at the Daily Telegraph who attended Mount View High School in Welch together. Charlene Addair, our classified manager, also attended Mount View at about the same time as Rick and I. And sports writer Bob Redd attended Mount View a few years earlier.

Anyhow, both Rick and I agreed that the best way to avoid frozen water pipes during the deep freeze is to keep the water dripping at home. So you can imagine my surprise when I arrived home a few  hours later and realized that my pipes were frozen.

The problem was further aggravated by the fact that this occurred on a week when the temperatures failed to climb out the teens during the day, and were in the single digits — often near zero — at night. As a result, there was no opportunity for the pipes to thaw on their own. That’s why the warmer weather we’ve had over the last few days has certainly been welcomed.

Not having water can throw off your entire routine. Instead of going to the gym after work, I found myself traveling to Walmart to purchase bottled water. And you can go through those jugs of bottled water very quickly. And even simple routines — like shaving — can become a task. Without proper running water, I had more shaving cuts on my chin each morning than normal. And even the cat suffered — as each time I wanted to fill his bowl up with fresh water I realized I had no running water. So the cat also got to drink bottled water as well. Perhaps he now prefers bottled water over tap water.

I guess there can be a few advantages to not having water. For one, I had a legitimate excuse as to why I didn’t have to wash and iron clothes. And it’s also hard to clean inside when you don’t have running water. Of course the vacuum cleaner still works even when the water isn’t running— so you can’t exactly get out of cleaning. But it does at least give you an excuse that you can try to use.

Frozen water pipes can make you realize just how dependent we are upon basic necessities such as electricity and running water. I am prepared for the next power outage with plenty of flash lights and candles, but it is hard to prepare for a water outage — as more than 300,000 folks impacted by last month’s chemical spill near Charleston found out.

There, of course, wasn’t much anyone could do about the extreme arctic air over the past few weeks. It just makes you enjoy our recent warm-up all the more. The groundhogs delivered mixed messages over the weekend regarding whether or not we are going to see six more weeks of winter. Personally, I think we’ve seen enough snow and bitter cold to last for one winter. I’m ready to go to bed at night without having to worry about whether or not the kitchen faucet is dripping. But rumor has it that a big storm is developing and could take aim at the region this weekend.

Here we go again.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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