Valley locked in record cold

Steve Furphy and Cameron Mason of the Grand Junction Water Department warm up a frozen water meter on North 17th St. from the exhaust of their truck. City crews have been busy during this long cold snap.


Tips for maintaining water service

■ Close garage doors. Many water problems can be avoided by keeping the garage closed. 

■ Open the cabinet doors below sinks to let heated air from the room into that space, especially if water pipes are in outside walls.

■ Allow a reduced stream of water to flow through faucets.

■ Make sure that all heating in all areas and zones and plumbing are working properly.

■ Install heat tape and insulation around exposed plumbing. 

■ Properly mark your main shut-off valve. Knowing the valve’s location could save your home from costly damage due to a broken waterline. 

■ Don’t forcefully heat waterlines. Using a torch can cause additional stress on the waterline, causing it to burst. It’s best to allow the lines to thaw naturally or by using heat tape or space heaters.  — Mike Wiggins

The steal-your-breath Arctic chill that has gripped the Grand Valley for the better part of a month has established another meteorological landmark, and the deep freeze may not be done rewriting the record books.

Tuesday morning’s low temperature of 3 below zero at Grand Junction Regional Airport marked the 22nd time this winter season the daily low dropped below zero, the most since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1893. There were four winters in which the low fell below zero on 21 days, with the most recent coming during the 1990-91 season. The Weather Service defines the winter season as December, January and February.

By comparison, the city’s temperature never slipped to the negative side of the thermometer last year.

Weather watchers say the frigid air and the lack of a storm to wash away the inversion are to blame for temperatures that have crept above freezing just twice in the last month.

“With that snow on the ground, it’s kept (the cold air) in place, and we just have not been able to break that inversion for any length of time,” said John Kyle, data program acquisition manager with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

The average low thus far in January is 4 below zero, making it the coldest month since 1925. The average temperature of 9 degrees is tied for third all-time. Only 1963 and 1968 were colder this far into January, according to Kyle.

History suggests below-zero temperatures remain a distinct possibility. Of the six all-time coldest lows recorded in Grand Junction’s history, three occurred in February, Kyle said.

“We are still in the thick of it as far as really cold temperatures,” Kyle said.

The prolonged freeze has taken its toll on water lines and meters throughout the valley. Ute Water Conservancy District, the largest domestic water provider in the valley, has been fielding 150 calls a day from customers reporting frozen water lines, spokesman Joe Burtard said.

“There were points we couldn’t keep up,” he said.

The frost level has sunk 3 feet or more below ground, which can impact service lines that run between the main line in the street and individual homes. In a typical winter, the frost is only 12 to 18 inches deep, Burtard said.

Kristin Winn, spokeswoman for Grand Junction’s Public Works and Planning Department, said crews have been working around the clock to thaw frozen lines and meters.


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