Repair crews overwhelmed by broken pipes, furnaces

SEATTLE - Sub-freezing temperatures are taking a toll on the pipes and furnaces of Puget Sound residents.

Plumbing and heating repair companies are responding to an onslaught of emergency calls.

"It's the worst I've ever experienced," says the dispatcher for Ballard Natural Gas. "We've got our people running from call-to-call. It's non-stop."

She said her technicians fielded at least thirty emergency calls on Saturday, and possibly as many today.

"We just want to help our customers get their heat back as soon as possible," she says.

Dispatchers for several plumbing companies said they are also experiencing a dramatic surge in repair calls, mostly for burst pipes.

Plumbers remind people to take a few simple precautions to help prevent frozen water pipes. Open cabinet doors beneath the sink to expose pipes to warmer air. Keep faucets dripping, and use insulating covers on outdoor spigots.

A broken water main in a Gig Harbor neighborhood Sunday morning caused concern for residents. The 6-inch underground pipe burst about 9 a.m. and created a geyser in the middle of one lane on Wollochet Drive NW.

In front of McKee Mosher's driveway is where the pipe burst.

"I panicked for a minute because it was so cold," says Mosher. "At first I thought it might be flooding into my house, but it was out in the street."

A six-person crew from Rainier View Water Company came out to fix the problem. The Gig Harbor Fire Department determined "extreme cold weather" caused the failure.

About two-dozen homes, including Mosher's, were without water for a good part of the day.

"I had to go to my grandma's house to shower this morning," says Mosher's son, Cameron. "Had to go all the way across town just to get some warm water."

The family was heading out to a soccer game. McKee Mosher coaches his 18-year-old daughter's recreation league team.

"The high is supposed to be 29-degrees today," he says. "18-year-old girls don't like playing in 29-degrees."

For the utility crew working in front of the Mosher home, the hardest part of the job was knowing they'd miss watching the Seahawks and 49ers football game.

"I can't believe it," says one member of the crew. "Of all the days."