The day it finally froze over (our water service, that is)

The local news informs us we have now awakened to 50 below-zero mornings so far this season, as if it were something we were all hoping to accomplish. I, for one, have had enough of winter, especially given the swift kick in the shins it gave us last Friday.


Our water service froze. No, not the pipes we can thaw ourselves with a hair dryer and a little swearing – the pipe between the curb and the water main. It seems this is our responsibility, even though it is in the street.

I watched with a sense of dread Friday afternoon as my water went from a trickle, to a drip, to nothing, despite my herculean efforts with heating tape, a hair dryer (now cracked, alas, from an unfortunate contact with the garage floor), and a space heater.

My dread turned to outright anxiety when I tried to reach the city and found they all go home at 3:30. The contact at the emergency number, a police dispatcher, told us to call a plumber. Yes, but who? And to do what? The city inspector would tell us, it seemed, in the morning.

My first advice, should you find yourself in this situation, is to make sure you have 10 or 12 empty milk jugs sitting around so you can go door-to-door for water. Fortunately, this is not a problem at my house where most of the inhabitants sport a permanent milk-moustache. (An aside: Later, when the water was back on, my son asked if we had to return what we’d borrowed.)

My second advice is to keep your cool (ha, ha – like that pun?) A situation like this does not inspire the most rational behavior. My reaction ran along the lines of:

  • Leaping at anyone who took out a clean fork, or attempted to change their socks.
  • Cranking up the heat in the house like it would somehow magically melt a pipe that’s 80 feet away under 6 feet of soil and a snow bank.
  • Meting out what little water we had like we were on a life boat in the Pacific. You want a drink of water? No way! We need to save it for more important things like…well, I’m not sure but I know drinking it isn’t at the top of the list.

My husband reacted by purchasing a blueberry pie that he warmed up, forgot to eat, and later attempted to use to bribe the city inspector who couldn’t really help us anyway.

I spent Friday night in sleepless desperation but by dawn had decided to unleash my inner pioneer. I’ve always loved Little House on the Prairie, and what better way to reenact it but from a house with central heating?

Saturday found me boiling snow on the stove to wash dishes, hauling water to the toilets, and other roughing-it behavior, until the inspector showed up to confirm what we already knew – we were out of luck. He did, however, give us a list of plumbers. And an offer to shower at the city rec center. (I must have looked a little rough around the edges.)

We were extremely fortunate. Thanks to my instinctually calling the plumber that was geographically the closest, and doing a little groveling, we had water again in 24 hours. This helped me avoid the pioneer task I was most dreading. (OK, so maybe taking your delicates to a laundromat with wifi isn’t exactly roughing it, but I can only say that in hindsight.)

The only issue now is that we have to run our water non-stop until at least mid-April. Aaah, everyone loves the restful sound of water running somewhere in the house. I’m trying to get my husband to think of it as a zen water feature, only in the utility room.

Now that I know that the water flow in the street is our responsibility, in future winters I will be standing out there blocking the path of the city plow so we can maintain the snow cover on the asphalt. We know from past experience that he’s not too keen on plowing us out anyway, and since we are at the end of a cul de sac, it will only inconvenience one or two neighbors, and the mail delivery. And I don’t need most of that mail anyway. So I don’t see a problem.

What’s your worst end-of-winter story? Or is winter even over yet?

8 thoughts on “The day it finally froze over (our water service, that is)

    1. We were lucky – I’ve heard of people without water for up to a week! I can find humor in (almost) everything after the fact, even if I’m not too cheery at the time.


  1. We had two incidents w/our water at our apartment.

    First a fire sprinkler pipe broke in an apartment down the hall. We got lucky. Only some minor water damage to the carpet in the living room/den & baseboards in the kitchen. Neighbors weren’t so lucky. They had 6″ of water in their apartment. About 10 apartments in our building got some sort of water damage from it.

    Then a few weeks later, the water main in the street burst. Luckily, we only had no water for a few hours, but it makes you realize that having running water is the most important thing in your home.

    Combined with all the ice in the streets (that is now FINALLY melting, knocks on wood), it’s been one heck of a winter!


  2. This is so funny, Sarah!! I laughed out loud at “You want a drink of water? No way!”
    Are you in Canada? Seems like I read once, but I can’t remember. I just can’t even comprehend 50 below. I went to Minnesota in January one time and saw a frozen deer on the side of the road. He was standing up with his head poking out of a snow bank. I thought surely I was going to die too. You are a brave pioneer woman indeed and your family is lucky to have you boiling snow for them!


    1. Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes and 10,000,000,000 mosquitoes. This winter has put us all to the test. But my neighbor did tell me I was nuts to boil snow when I could have just borrowed more water from her.


  3. Ah dear! Well, I’m glad you got it sorted – imagine having to use a laundromat with wifi like a pioneer 🙂 . Boiling the snow sounds quite fun and innovative, though. Running the water til April is something my water-restrictions-inner-Brisbanite can’t quite think about without wanting to bang both fists against my ears Rainman style with stress, though.


    1. My neighbor thought it was nuts to boil snow but I felt fairly resourceful. You’re right about running the water, though. I can hardly bear the environmental guilt.


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