Burst pipes wreak havoc in the cold

January 23, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

Last week's frigid temperatures combined with insufficient insulation on domestic and commercial sprinkler systems caused monumental headaches for property owners and firefighters who had to deal with hundreds of burst pipes, said Robert Thomas, deputy chief for the state fire marshal's office.

Such problems were especially troublesome in Harford County, where frozen pipes burst in relatively new condominium projects, Mr. Thomas said Tuesday, the day before the mercury dipped to minus 4 and wind chill bottomed out at minus 30.

The Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company handled 20 calls for burst sprinkler system pipes between Sunday and Wednesday, said James Lyons III, assistant chief.

Nearly all of those calls were in the Woodbridge Center condominium complex, south of Route 40 between Route 152 and Edgewood.

Families in 12 condominium units on Clover Valley Way in the Woodbridge Center complex were temporarily displaced Monday afternoon when frozen sprinkler pipes in the attic burst and caused flooding to third-floor and some second-floor units, Mr. Thomas said.

"Poor or inadequate insulation on the pipes is causing the problem," he said.

The Red Cross responded to assist the families, a spokeswoman said.

The Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company spent 4 1/2 hours checking structural damage and removing water Monday, Mr. Thomas said.

Mr. Lyons said warming temperatures will thaw out pipes and could cause further water damage if additional frozen pipes have cracked.

As of last week, only two of Harford's 47 schools were affected by malfunctioning equipment due to the frigid temperatures, said Donald R. Morrison, school spokesman.

At Bel Air High School, a water pipe burst in a boiler room, where a sump pump was frozen. The damage was discovered by a custodian before water damage could occur, Mr. Morrison said.

Another problem was avoided when a custodian at Bel Air Middle School realized that a boiler did not resume operation after Wednesday's rolling blackout by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

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