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How To Prevent Flooding From Frozen, Cracked Pipes

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The end of our extreme cold weather is coming soon. But the warmup we’ve been waiting for will bring big problems for some homeowners.

Pipes that froze and cracked during the freeze could soon dump hundreds of gallons of water into basements, bathrooms and kitchens.

Plumbing companies say it’s been a couple decades since they’ve seen this many problems.

And they say homeowners better get them fixed as soon as possible.

It took 59 years and historically-low temps to bust a pipe in Larry Smith’s basement.

“The only thing colder than me last night was my 59-year-old plumbing,” Smith said. “Dropped 200 gallons in the basement before I got up this morning, and we’ve taken it from there. Not very well, but we’ve taken it.”

The damage will cost Smith thousands of dollars and a huge mess to clean. But despite it all, he has kept his sense of humor.

“The ceiling was down, and I mean there was an inch of water on top of everything,” he said. “I finally got a swimming pool down [in] the basement!”

Plumbing and restoration crews have been working around the clock trying to keep up with similar house calls.

Andy Ryan with Minneapolis-St. Paul Plumbing, Heating and Air says business has been beyond brisk.

“The last 72 hours, we’re getting anywhere from 75-100 calls a day,” Ryan said.

Why so many pipe problems? The subzero temps cause water to freeze. When it freezes, it expands, causing the pipes to burst.

Ryan says there’s a simple test to tell if your pipes are indeed frozen.

“If you go to your normal kitchen faucet, your bathroom faucet, and you turn the faucet on and it doesn’t work like it’s supposed to, definitely contact a plumber to figure out what’s going on,” he said.

It’s a lesson that Smith says he learned the hard way.

“Don’t wait 59 years,” Smith said. “Update your plumbing.”

If you suspect you have frozen pipes, the first thing you’ll need to find is the main valve to your water supply. Turn it off to prevent a leak.

Then, it’s time to call the plumbers. They’ll have equipment that can detect exactly where the crack is in your pipes.

Once they fix the crack, they’ll then work to slowly heat your pipes until they thaw.

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