Bitter cold takes toll on city workers and equipment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

Bowling Green residents count on city workers to plow snow off the roads, respond to car crashes, and keep the power on during winter weather. Doing that in bitter cold weather takes a toll on city equipment and on the people that operate it.

Snow plow blades are more likely to break in this cold, police cruisers have to run continuously during shifts, and fire hoses have been known to freeze.

“We subject our officers to being out in the elements for extended periods,” Police Chief Tony Hetrick said.

That’s tough on people and patrol cars. Layering only does so much, and “they run constantly in the cold,” the chief said of the police cruisers.

For the Fire Division, the frigid cold means EMS crews must move even faster for outside calls. “We need to move quickly to get patients out of the elements,” Fire Chief Tom Sanderson said.

Firefighting is especially tricky in freezing temperatures.

“We have to keep them flowing,” Sanderson said of the hoses. But that means the ground quickly gets covered in ice. The city’s public works department often spreads salt at winter fire scenes to try to give firefighters and their vehicles some traction.

“We haven’t had to chisel our fire hose out of the ice yet this week,” Sanderson said.

Public works crews face their own problems, with the extreme cold taking a toll on equipment, according to Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter. Snow plow blades tend to break very easily, she said. And trash containers become increasingly brittle and are more prone to breaking, she added.

The city utilities department recommends its consumer-owners take the following precautions to help prevent water lines and meters from freezing this winter:

  • Protect exposed pipes from cold air drafts by closing and sealing windows and openings in basements or crawlspaces.
  • Protect your water meter by wrapping it with insulation or a blanket.
  • Provide proper insulation for walls and pipes where necessary.
  • If your water meter is in the garage, take precautions to protect it and keep the garage door closed.
  • If pipes cannot be shielded from the cold or the residence has a history of frozen water lines or meters, run a small stream of cold water from an indoor faucet to keep water moving through your pipes. Make sure the drain is open and clear to allow water to escape.
  • Keep your thermostat set above 55 degrees, even if you will be away for several days. Turn off water to your washing machine. Try to have a friend or neighbor check your home periodically while you are away to ensure the heating system is working and that there are no water leaks.
  • If your pipes freeze despite these precautions, do not try to thaw them with a propane torch.
  • If you encounter a broken pipe, be aware of standing water and electrical wires—an electrocution hazard may be present.
  • If you experience problems and are not sure what to do, contact a licensed plumber. The City of Bowling Green can be reached at 419-354-6277 during regular business hours and 419-352-1131 after hours.  Please note that the city cannot work on private service lines, perform plumbing services, or recommend a plumber. However, the city can confirm that a customer’s property is thawed and investigate any issues associated with the municipal utility system.
  • Know the location of the master water shutoff valve in your home and check its operation at least once every year.

For additional information, contact the Water Distribution/Wastewater Collection Division at 419-354-6277.

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