By Eileen Bailey

Daily Journal

Hundreds of Northeast Mississippi residents began to experience problems with plumbing because of dangerously low temperatures this past weekend, said area plumbers. But as temperatures begin to rise today even more problems could arise, they said.

"We have seen 50 to 60 cases this weekend maybe even more," said Chaz Kirby, a plumber with Nash Plumbing & Heating Co./Roto-Rooter of North Mississippi in Tupelo.

Temperatures over the weekend dropped in some areas to 4 degrees, with the wind chill factor dropping the temperature into negative numbers. The high for today is expected to be between 45 and 50 degrees, said a spokesman with the National Weather Service in Memphis. That means pipes that were frozen will begin to thaw and if that happens some people may have a slushy mess on their hands, Kirby said.

Kirk Kitchens, owner of Lee Acres Plumbing said his company had received more than 300 calls about what to do about frozen pipes and the company has answered about 40 calls.

What to do

Kirby said residents should call a plumber if pipes are frozen. He added that if pipes are frozen residents should check outside faucets to make sure the lines have not cracked.

To minimize water damage, cut off water to the house until repairs are made. The extent of damage may not be evident until the weather warms, ice melts and the leaks begin.

Kirby said if pipes have not frozen do not unwrap pipes.

Kitchens said most of the frozen pipes have occurred in attics, under homes and on walls on the north side of homes. In one Tupelo restaurant pipes in the attic burst and water caused damage to ceiling tiles.

Tips from other plumbers in the area include:

If the faucet doesn't work, open cabinet doors to admit warmer air from the home.

Try to thaw interior and some exterior pipes, using common sense when selecting a heat source. A hairdryer turned to the hot setting is a good heat source for areas such as an exterior hose bib (faucet).

Do not use a hairdryer under the house, where the area could be damp and an inexperienced person could get an electric shock.

Do not increase a fire hazard with open flames under the house: for example, do not light a wad of newspapers and wave them under frozen pipes.

Leave faucets on to relieve pressure.

Turn off water at the main (by the curb), then turn it on back again once the weather warms up.

Johnny Timmons, director of Tupelo Water & Light Department, said Monday that weekend crews answered more than 100 calls to turn off water mains. He said that by noon Monday 50 calls had already been answered.

But Timmons said he expects the number to be even higher today as temperatures continue to rise. "I don't think you will see the real effects until Tuesday," he said.

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