CONYERS — Now that temperatures are climbing out of the single digits and are rising above freezing, many people are bracing for what may come next: broken water pipes.
“Once it starts to freeze, you know what’s coming next,” said Vickie Boudreau, customer service manager for Royal Flush Plumbing. “When pipes freeze, then they thaw and you get a pop and a gush of water.”
Boudreau, who has 25 years of customer service experience in the plumbing and heating and air industry, said when temperatures start to rise after a hard freeze like the Atlanta region has experienced the past several days, thawing pipes “are going to sound like a bag of popcorn in the microwave.”
Boudreau said Wednesday morning she had been at work since 7 a.m. Tuesday, handling customer calls and scheduling the company’s 20 plumbers who were working throughout the night responding to broken pipes and water lines.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 25 years of customer service,” she said.
In her opinion, homes and businesses throughout the state, particularly newer built structures, are not constructed to handle the dramatically low temperatures.
Throughout the day Tuesday, businesses and homeowners were scrambling to deal with gushing water from broken sprinkler systems and water pipes. A broken sprinkler line at McDonald’s on Ga. Highway 138 in Conyers had public safety officials working to protect motorists from ice that had developed on the roadway.
Newton County officials worked throughout the evening Tuesday responding to nearly 40 utility-related calls, according to Newton County Fire Services Chief Kevin O’Brien.
In addition to a number of businesses and residences that reported broken sprinkler pipes and water pipes, Covington Fire Station No. 2 and Newton County Fire Stations 5, 6 and 7 experienced flooding from broken pipes and lines.
Covington Fire Department Assistant Fire Marshal Tony Smith said a firefighter was headed to exercise in the training room Tuesday night, but instead found the room flooded with about 2 to 3 inches of water.
“Luckily one of our guys was going to work out. The line busted in the ceiling and he was able to turn off the water, but only after 2 or more inches of flooding,” Smith said.
Station 2 continued to be without water as of Wednesday morning. Smith said dryers and humidifiers were running to air out the training room.
By Wednesday morning, many officials were holding their breath that even warmer temperatures wouldn’t translate into more problems.
Conyers Police Department Officer Kim Lucas said Wednesday morning that the CPD wasn’t responding to as many calls and Lt. Chris Kozikowski with Rockdale Fire and Rescue said the number of calls had declined since the day before.
“We’ve had a few calls this morning, but we’d like to think that with so many calls yesterday (Tuesday), the biggest problem lines had revealed themselves,” he said.
Even so, Wednesday was not without its share of water line breaks.
Salem United Methodist Church had a rude awakening when the sprinkler system in its gymnasium area broke, flooding the building.
In Conyers, a few areas continued to experience problems, such as along Wellbrook Circle, Peaks Landing apartments and around Pearle Vision on Dogwood Drive, according to Lucas.
Early Wednesday afternoon, an alert citizen walking from the tennis courts on Parker Road noticed that water was pouring out of a back room of the Rockdale County Extension Office. He alerted some of the staff and they were able to shut off the water before it caused too much damage, said Extension Coordinator Jule-Lynne Macie.
By around 4 p.m., Kozikowski said the fire department had responded to a steady stream of calls, but “nothing like yesterday.”
Covington Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon said there had been no report of city water lines breaking as of Wednesday morning.
“With temperatures warming, I look for those calls to increase as many of these frozen lines thaw out. We tend to have problems with our water mains bursting when the ground starts to warm up after a hard freeze,” Bouchillon said. “We are keeping our fingers crossed.”
Kozikowski said fire officials in Rockdale are pitching in to help businesses with their clean-up efforts.
“Usually our responsibility is to make sure the water is shut off, but we are trying to go above and beyond to help clean the water out of the buildings with squeegees and wet vacs,” he said.
At this point, though, most people are at the “mercy of Mother Nature,” according to Boudreau.
Boudreau’s advice? Know where the water shut-off valve is and then get on a plumber’s schedule and stay on it.
“My advice is for people not to shop plumbers, but to get on a schedule, stay on it and wait it out,” she said. “We are prioritizing for the elderly and medical facilities, but we are working around the clock and doing everything we can to serve our customers.”
Citizen staff reporter Jessicah Peters contributed to this story.