Extreme cold, deep frost causing pipe problems

It was 75 years ago this month that Billy’s Casino, one of Clear Lake’s night clubs on the south shore, burned to the ground.  The fire started in the rest room, where the owner was using a blow torch to thaw out the water pipes which had frozen with sub-zero temperatures.

At least three Clear Lake homeowners, and dozens more throughout North Iowa are facing the same frozen pipe dilemma this year.

Clear Lake Public Works Director Joe Weigel said Tuesday he is aware of three local properties which have reported frozen pipes.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing which can be done by the homeowner to get their water flowing again soon.

Make that nothing which can be done safely.  Or quickly.  Or without expense.

“Many years ago welders would take their torches to the lines to try to thaw them out, but there were fires and no one does that anymore,” said Weigel.  “Really, the only thing is to call the one person we know about who has a device to thaw the pipe.”

Weigel said this year’s four and one-half foot to five-foot deep frost line is causing the problems-- usually at the service connection for a home.   Homes which have not had water running with frequency, or which are located at the end of a line, are most susceptible to the problem.

“People who have had this happen before are aware that they should keep a trickle of water running,” said Weigel.  “And for those who do have frozen pipes-- the sooner they can get it fixed, the better.”

Unfortunately, warmer temperatures predicted this week will do nothing to help the situation.

“Warming will only drive the frost deeper,” said Weigel.  

And for those vacant properties whose owners think they could wait until spring for a thaw, Weigel says think again.  The water line could burst, causing even more damage and expense.

The City of Clear Lake is passing along the name and phone number of the one person with a service to safely thaw the frozen pipe, using a warm water pump tied into the line.


As of Tuesday, Russ Hardy, of Mason City, had 13 homeowners awaiting his service.  He has advised callers to expect to spend a minimum of $500 for a repair.  He charges $200 per hour and will likely not reach the 13th person on his list for another week.


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