- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

Washington is still waiting for the snow and ice, but the cold temperatures expected in winter arrived this week.
Sub-freezing temperatures over the past few days have cracked water pipes and caused flooding in basements in the area, sending repair crews scrambling and the weather forecast calls for even colder weather this weekend.
There were 16 water-main breaks in Montgomery and Prince George's County yesterday, bringing the total for those counties to 37 in the last four days.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) had all 50 of its crews out working yesterday. The rash of broken pipes comes as no surprise, spokeswoman Liz Kalinowski said.
"The crews are used to this," she said. "It's something we expect every year and are prepared for. We've been prepared for the last two months or so."
Water-main breaks have the potential to leave hundreds of residents without water, since the supply must be shut off while the break is repaired. Power to homes occasionally must be shut off as well while repairs are made.
Additionally, breaks can flood roads and residential basements.
The culprit, officials said, is usually the brittle cast-iron piping that was used as the industry standard until 1976.
More than half of the WSSC's 5,000 miles of water-main pipe in the two counties are cast iron, and the old pipes are responsible for 98 percent of the breaks, according to WSSC General Manager John Griffin.
Some breaks, said Miss Kalinowski, are unavoidable. There is a lot of pipe, she said, and "something's bound to break at some point."
Officials said residents can protect their homes by following a few simple tips:
Protect exposed pipes in the unheated parts of your home by wrapping them with insulation or heat tape.
Keep the garage door closed and seal all leaks in crawl spaces and basements. If your vents won't close, cover them from the inside with insulation, cardboard, plastic or newspaper.
If a pipe freezes, completely open the cold-water faucet closest to the frozen pipe. This will relieve the pressure and reduce the chance of breakage.
Use a handheld dryer if you decide to thaw the pipe yourself.
If you're not certain what to do, call a registered plumber for help.
Miss Kalinowski said flooded homes are rare, even if you live in an older neighborhood. But worried residents, she said, can ask their insurance agencies to add protection against flooding or water backup to their policies.
Homes built in the last 25 years are less at risk, said Fairfax Water Authority Executive Officer James Warfield, because the structures are generally constructed with stronger iron ductile pipes.
In the District, the Water and Sewer Authority oversees about 1,300 miles of pipe.
While most of its pipes are older, it has had only eight main breaks in the past week, according to Public Affairs Director Libby Lawson.
Overnight temperatures in the Washington area are expected to be in the mid- to high 20s through New Year's Eve.

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