Archive for Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Cold takes its toll

January 3, 2001

The recent deep-freeze conditions that have gripped Baldwin City for the past weeks hasn't caused any major problems, but pipes have been breaking throughout the city.

One such situation late Saturday night in the intersection of Ninth and Fremont sent water cascading down Fremont and both Ninth and Tenth streets. Not surprisingly, those streets quickly became ice skating rinks and stayed that way long after the broken pipe was fixed.

City Administrator Larry Paine said there have been other pipes with similar problems, including one near Second and Ames over Christmas weekend. But, all in all, the frigid conditions haven't caused too much harm.

"We haven't had too many problems," said Paine. "We've had some frozen water pipes where people have dug around the pipes and not gotten the fill back in right.

"Part of the problem with the pipes is the types of expansive soils we've got," he said. "The soil shrinks in the winter, expands in the spring with the rains, then shrink with droughts. That's what causes water line breaks. There's not a lot you can do about it."

Despite more snow fall than has happened in years, the city has kept ahead of it, with only one problem.

"Snow removal hasn't been a problem, other than a problem with a couple of people," said Paine. "We had some people who wanted to ride the wind rows (of snow piled in the middle of Sixth and High streets). They got stuck and slowed the removal a little. They got to talk to the police after they got dug out. You pay when you play."

There was only one slight glitch in the electrical system, but it didn't cause any outages.

"On the electrical side, we had a transformer freeze up," he said. "It set off alarms, but wasn't a problem."

It's been a similar situation at Baker University, where students have been at home on Christmas break for most of the cold snap. But, that's about to change.

"It's been cold. We've had some pipes break, but other than that we haven't had any problems," said John Fuller, Baker spokesman. "The students are coming back today for interterm. The roads are good and that means they'll arrive safely.

"Our maintenance staff does a good job when the weather gets bad," said Fuller. "They're well prepared for it."

Everyone is ready for a break in the arctic tundra conditions and that is in the forecast. Temperatures are forecasted to be in the 40s and 50s later this week, which will be a vast change from the teens and single digits that have been common with windchills dipping easily into the minus categories.

"It'll be good for everybody because we can start using less natural gas for our heaters," Paine said of the expected break in the temperatures.

But, he said, that may also start up a new problem for city residents potholes.

"The melting might cause us problems with the streets," said Paine.

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