Pipes freeze; furnaces gobble gas

With temperatures staying below freezing, snow turns to ice on bronze statues in downtown Grand Junction Thursday afternoon.

Grand Valley utility officials are counting themselves lucky so far this cold spell.

The city of Grand Junction had to deal with four waterline breaks last week and one this week as the temperature plummeted below zero, spokeswoman Kristin Winn said.

Ute Water Conservancy District, meanwhile, as of Thursday had yet to deal with a waterline break during the cold snap.

“Knock on wood, we’ve been pretty fortunate in the last few days,” Steve Ryken, assistant general manager, said Thursday.

The cold snap that drove temperatures down statewide sent natural gas use to record levels, said Tom Henley, a spokesman for Xcel Energy.

Xcel customers used 2,000,121,000 cubic feet of natural gas Tuesday and 2,000,120,000 cubic feet on Wednesday, Henley said.

The previous record was 2,000,119,000 cubic feet, set Dec. 15, 2008, he said.

The bitter cold has been a headache for many residents, especially those who found themselves without water.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls from people with frozen lines” leading into their houses from the water meter, Ryken said.

In many cases, people left their garages or side doors open, allowing the bitter cold to freeze their pipes, he said.

Mobile-home residents have to be particularly careful to make sure the pipes underneath their floors don’t freeze and should use heat tape or take other steps to keep those pipes from freezing, Ryken said.

The Grand Valley’s two electricity utilities also have avoided problems so far.

Spokesman Bill Byers credited Grand Valley Power’s tree-trimming program with making sure no limbs were falling on power lines.

Xcel dealt with one power outage in Clifton on Wednesday, but all of its other calls were routine, spokesman Fred Eggleston said.

Here’s a list of tips to fend off the worst of the cold.

Leave cabinets open to allow warmth to get to the pipes behind the doors.

If there’s a history of frozen pipes in the home, let water trickle from a faucet to keep it flowing instead of freezing.

Make sure extension cords used for holiday lighting are not frayed and are otherwise in good repair.

Keep snow off gas meters. Snow on the meters can cause them to freeze and prevent gas from reaching the furnace inside.


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