Explaining Why Frozen Pipes Burst

11:55 PM, Jan 9, 2014   |    comments
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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- After the recent Arctic plunge which kept temperatures in the Triad below freezing for more than 40 hours straight there arose many issues with bursting water pipes. Not only were water pipes freezing, but fountains all over the Triad also froze solid.

A WFMY News 2 viewer emailed Chief Meteorologist Grant Gilmore and asked, "Does the frozen fountain shoot down the ideal of letting outside faucets drop to keep from breaking"?

The simple answer to this question is, no. When temperatures are expected to be well below freezing for a long period of time in the Triad it is always a good idea to keep a steady drip in the faucet to help prevent the water from freezing. While this is not guaranteed to prevent the water in the pipes from freezing, the water is less likely to freeze while moving then when stationary.

The problem with water freezing in pipes is that when water freezes it expands. As the ice expands inside the pipe it exerts a huge amount of pressure on the inside of the pipe. Eventually the pressure reaches the point where a weak spot in the pipe or a joint between two pipes gives out and causes a break. If temperatures are cold enough it may not be immediately evident that a pipe has burst. However, once the ice thaws and begins to melt the water from the burst pipe will surface.

View the attached video as Chief Meteorologist Grant Gilmore explains this situation.

WFMY News 2

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