“It’s cold out there
colder than a ticket taker’s smile
at the Ivar Theatre, on a Saturday night”

from “Emotional Weather Report,” by Tom Waits

Ocracoke is in the freezing zone.

Temperatures are in the 20s today and tonight, though are supposed to climb upwards starting tonight.  It is expected to get into the 40s tomorrow but drop again below freezing–into the 20s–Thursday and Friday.

Although this may not seem that cold for other locales, these low temps lead to some frozen and burst water pipes in houses on the island–both occupied and unoccupied.  Burst pipes can lead to significant water damage, especially if not quickly detected. Unoccupied houses , and there are many this time of the year, are the most vulnerable.

“Every year when there is a freeze, we get some burst pipes, especially with unoccupied cottages,” said David  Tolson, manager of the Ocracoke Sanitary District that administers the water plant.

Ride the Wind Surf & Kayak shop winter of 2014. Photo by P.Vankevich
Ride the Wind Surf & Kayak shop winter of 2014. Photo by P.Vankevich

To prevent this from happening, he has some suggestions.

First, wrap any exposed outside pipes on the outside of the house. For unoccupied houses, the water should be turned off and pipes leading to outside showers and spigots thoroughly drained. Antifreeze should be poured into the drains and toilets.

For the houses that are occupied, a dripping technique can be used to keep the moving water from freezing, but this should be monitored carefully. If the pipes do freeze, the drain may back up with water and ice may cause further damage.

Consumers should prepare for the very cold by closing dampers on unused fireplaces, making sure storm windows are properly shut, closing crawlspace foundation vents and sealing air leaks and drafts, notes Tideland EMC.

Limit electric space heaters  to a small, confined areas and not rely on it to heat an entire house which will result in high energy bills.  Space heaters should be plugged directly into wall outlets and never into a power strip or extension cord.

Ocracoke lighthouse winter of 2014. Photo by P. Vankevich
Ocracoke lighthouse winter of 2014. Photo by P. Vankevich

Anyone using kerosene, unvented gas heat or wood heat should have a working carbon monoxide detector inside the home. Use extreme caution when refueling kerosene heaters which is a process that should only be done outdoors. All homes should be equipped with working smoke detectors.

In the event of a power outage, electric utility consumers are advised to turn off individual breakers to major appliances such as water heaters, refrigerators and heating equipment.

Once power has been restored wait 15 to 20 minutes before turning breakers back on. This will give the electric system time to warm back up without creating an overload that could damage utility equipment and trigger another outage


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