A breaking point

Colder weather is expected in the area tonight


Published: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 3:28 a.m.

Facts

FYI:

Burst pipes from cold are rare in Gainesville
Caring for your plants during cold weather

  • Make sure plants are covered all the way to the ground, and support plastic from actually touching the leaves.
  • Use light bulbs - strings of Christmas lights work - under covers for additional warmth.
  • Well-watered plants survive cold snaps better than those that are dry.
  • Protect plants from winds by piling loose mulch around the base and lower limbs.
  • Pick citrus fruit if temperatures stay at 28 degrees or colder for 3-4 hours.
  • Avoid cutting back plants until extent of damage is known.

  • The adage for below-freezing temperatures is to protect your pets, pipes and plants, but most North Central Florida residents probably don't have to worry about one of those items, say plumbing experts.
    And with low temperatures expected at freezing early this morning and in the upper 20s tonight, people may wonder exactly when their pipes are in danger.
    Pipes break because water expands when it freezes, said Chris Batich, professor of material science in the engineering department at the University of Florida.
    But in most homes, pipes are protected from the bitter cold because they are underground and then run up into an insulated house, said Frank Podolak, service manager at Quality Plumbing in Gainesville.
    If you have a newer home and your pipes are underground before coming up into your house, you probably don't need to either insulate your pipes or leave them dripping on cold nights, Podolak said.
    But in the case of older homes, there's a difference of opinion.
    Older homes are often built up on cement blocks and may have pipes exposed under the house.
    Podolak said he thinks those pipes would still be OK in a typical Florida winter because temperatures don't stay cold enough to burst the pipes.
    "You'd need it down into the teens or low 20s, sustained, for a couple of days," Podolak said. "That doesn't really happen here."
    But Herman Goodman, a plumber at Rotorooter of Gainesville, said any temperature below freezing can freeze and burst exposed pipes.
    "They could either freeze and burst right then or freeze and when it thaws out, it could break," Goodman said.
    It's rare for pipes to burst in Gainesville, but Goodman said he handled a case of burst pipes at an older house last winter.
    Anyone with pipes exposed outside should insulate their pipes with foam or fiberglass, Goodman said. They could also leave their water trickling at night or even put a low-voltage hot wire on the pipes to keep them warm, he added.
    Plastic pipes are more brittle than metal pipes, Batich said.
    Swimming pool pipes are usually safe because the pump runs every so often, keeping water circulating, experts say.
    The National Weather Service predicted low temperatures of 32 degrees for this morning, and temperatures were already down to 43 degrees by 8 p.m. Friday.
    There was a freeze warning in effect for Baker, Columbia, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Suwannee and Union counties until this morning.
    A wind chill advisory was in effect for Alachua, Bradford, Clay, Marion and Putnam counties. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph will make it feel more like the lower- to mid-20s early this morning, according to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville.
    Temperatures will rebound only into the mid-50s and could drop even further tonight, down to 28 degrees - the lowest of the season.
    Highs will reach into the lower 60s Sunday and are expected to remain above freezing Sunday night.
    Temperatures will be in the 60s through Friday.
    The outlook for January is for a continuation of below normal temperatures and above normal rainfall, according to the National Weather Service.
    Kathy Ciotola can be reached at 338-3109 or ciotolk@ gvillesun.com.

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