Pocatello Cold Weather Advice
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to determine when a water line is at greater risk of freezing as there are many variables involved.
Frost & Snow Cover
If there is little or no frost in the ground prior to receiving an adequate snow cover, the snow will act as an insulator and protect water services from freezing even after several days of sub-zero temperatures. If snow cover is received after the frost level is already several feet deep, the temperature of the snow will actually drive the frost deeper into the ground, causing services to freeze.
As a general rule, if the water lines serving a residence or business have not frozen in the past, even in sub-zero weather, it is unlikely that a problem will occur. However, it may be prudent to take precautionary measures during extended absences to avoid the inconvenience and possible expense of restoring water service.
Frozen Water Lines
If you suspect you have a frozen water service, prior to calling for assistance, check other fixtures throughout the dwelling. If water is available to another fixture, the service line is not frozen to the dwelling and the resident is responsible for thawing the frozen line. If the service line is frozen at the meter or in the street, Water Department personnel will thaw the line. It is unlawful for citizens to gain access to the meter and attempt to carry out thawing operations.
If you need assistance with water related matters, staff are on duty from 7:30 until midnight, Monday through Friday. Staff is also available from 8 a.m. until midnight, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. You can reach the Water Department by calling 208-234-6182 during business hours and at 208-234-6181 after hours.
Water lines located in unheated basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, or in cabinets on an exterior wall are more susceptible to freezing. The following preventative measures can be taken by citizens to help avoid uninterrupted water service:
- Maintain temperatures of at least 40 degrees in areas where water lines are exposed or if impractical, consider insulating exposed water pipes or install UL-listed heat tape.
- Temporarily cover vents in crawl spaces to prevent the circulation of cold air.
- Repair broken windows and make any other repairs to prevent drafts of cold air from reaching exposed pipes.
- Running water periodically throughout the day will help prevent the pipes from freezing
- Open cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing (make sure harmful chemicals are moved out of the reach of children).
- If the home will be unattended for more than 24 hours, set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees, and ask a friend or neighbor to run the water for several minutes daily.
- Meters located in landscaped areas can be covered with snow to help insulate the meter box.
- A trickle of running water about the size of the lead in a pencil from a faucet at the highest level in your house will help prevent the service line from freezing. The trickle should be shut off once daytime temperatures return to above freezing.
The meter is the most vulnerable component of the service line and typically will freeze first. If the frost level is not below the depth of the meter box, the warmer air rising from the ground inside the meter box helps prevent the meter from freezing and breaking. One of the reasons that the meters are not read during the winter months is that once the seal is broken around the meter box lid, the warm air escapes and creates a greater risk of the meter freezing.