Residents, pipes freeze
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: January 5, 2013
Temperatures in Jackson Hole dropped to as low as 28 degrees below zero Friday and the day before, marking the chilliest point yet of this winter’s most severe cold stretch.
Longtime Wilson resident Betty Chambers recorded the low reading at her property on Wenzel Lane on Friday morning. She regularly sees some of the area’s coldest temperatures because of the low elevation of her land.
“A surveyor said it was 14 feet lower than the bed of the Snake River,” Chambers said, “and, you know, cold settles.”
Friday was the coldest day yet this winter, she said.
While readings elsewhere across the valley weren’t quite as low as they were at Chambers’ house, they support her claim that Friday was the coldest day of winter so far.
Temperatures recorded at Jackson Hole Airport reached 18 degrees below zero Thursday and Friday in the wee hours of the morning.
The last night the mercury did not plunge far below zero was New Year’s Eve. Temperatures hovered around 3 degrees for most of the night, according to data from the National Weather Service.
A string of ultracold days can be uncomfortable for residents, but they also can prove hazardous for water and sewer pipes.
Chambers has hers wrapped with extra insulation, but others haven’t been as prepared. Over the past two days, plumbers around Jackson Hole have been busy helping residents thaw frozen pipes.
Stephen Davidson, owner of Plumbing Anytime and Anytime Drain Busters, received 10 calls Friday.
“People try to save money by not heating their house,” Davidson said.
When temperatures stay below zero for multiple days, water in pipes can freeze and faucets can dry up if a home isn’t warm enough, he said.
Other contractors agreed that the key is keeping a house heated.
Ground frost, which penetrates the soil and can freeze pipes, isn’t the concern right now, said Lance Givilancz, a plumber with Charlie’s Plumbing and Sewer Service.
“It’s a misconception that people think their pipes are frozen way underground,” he said. “If you don’t have any water in your house whatsoever, usually it’s freezing in your crawl space, where the water enters your home.”
He recommends using space heaters to warm cold areas of a house or opening doors to rooms that may be prone to freezing.
The town of Jackson also offers tips to residents.
“We tell people to run their water at about a pencil width” from a faucet that may be prone to freezing, town engineer Shawn O’Malley said.
Because of a weather pattern known as inversion, freezing temperatures pool up in Jackson Hole “just like cold water in a soup bowl,” Jackson meteorologist Jim Woodmencey said. Higher altitudes often are warmer than the valley floor.
“It was 18 below zero at the airport and 29 degrees at the top of the gondola,” Woodmencey said of Friday morning.
Residents may receive some respite soon. Strong winds should mix temperatures Sunday and bring warmer weather to Jackson, Woodmencey said, and Jackson Hole could see a new blanket of snow Monday and Tuesday.
“Enough to freshen things up,” he said.