In Our Own Backyard….Winter weather leaves us high and dryThe ultimate blow came when my husband and I arrived home last Friday after five days out of town and discovered we didn’t have any water in our house.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
It wasn’t enough that last week’s temperatures plummeted into the 30-degree-below zero range.
It wasn’t enough that the strong gusts of wind sent the wind chill factor into the 40-degree-below-zero range.
It wasn’t enough that snow and ice covered everything in sight and cars were spinning into the ditches left and right.
No, the ultimate blow came when my husband and I arrived home last Friday after five days out of town and discovered we didn’t have any water in our house.
A turn of the kitchen faucet yielded only a brief sputtering sound – and then, nothing. In our disbelief, we went from faucet to faucet before at last acknowledging the fact that there was indeed no water. It was a sickening feeling, realizing that we had five days’ worth of clothes to be washed, a partially-filled dishwasher yet to run, showers to take, hair to wash and of course, toilets to flush – to say nothing of the fact we likely had a frozen well pump, or frozen water lines. And if there was no water running through the pipes because they had frozen up, could the septic system be far behind?
Ken sprinted out to the well with a length of heat tape and an extension cord, in hopes of unthawing the pump if it was frozen. But by the next morning, there was still no water, and what ensued was a nightmarish course of events that led to anything but a relaxing weekend. Our time was spent working on exposed pipes in the basement with a hair dryer, shutting off and overriding the newly installed water softener in case that was the root of the problem (it wasn’t) and running to the neighbor’s house for buckets of water so we could flush the toilet.
We were both beginning to feel a little, well, “unwashed” without benefit of our morning shower, so we made a run to the nearby convenience store/bait station and purchased some bottled water, hand sanitizer and a container of baby wipes to help out with hand and face washing. We pondered boiling water on the stove to do up a few of the dirty dishes, but I optimistically suggested we just “Let ’em go,” still believing that at any moment the water would come gushing out of the faucet.
“After all,” I said, “it’s a little like camping!”
Ken didn’t share my optimism. He spent much of the day on the phone, calling every well and plumbing contractor in the phone book, only to discover that most of them were either gone or unavailable. Some, who worked solely on wells, said they didn’t do any inside work, and others who worked strictly on plumbing said they didn’t do any outside work. And since we had no idea where the problem actually was, we didn’t have a whole lot of luck convincing anyone to come out and take a look at it. One conveyed an additional sense of gloom and doom by telling us he’d worked on jobs this winter that showed the frost down as far as 17 feet….
To make matters worse, several of the well contractors mentioned they were going out of town on Monday for their annual certification training and wouldn’t be available all week….
One fellow finally agreed to come out and look things over, and – after going through much the same investigation as we had – he pronounced that we would have to wait until spring for the system to thaw. He did offer to jerry rig a temporary, above-ground line from the well to the house to help us get by for the next three months, and we were about to take him up on his offer when the phone rang on Saturday night.
It turned out to be the contractor who had drilled the original well for our house some 13 years ago, returning our call from early that morning. He swore that he had buried the water pipes so deep that there was no way possible that they could have frozen, and he offered to drive out to our house on Sunday morning. True to his word, he arrived around 9:30 a.m., did a cursory look around and then went down to the basement to examine the interior water lines. At the same time, he extracted a device from his tool kit and proceeded to test the power to a relay switch to the well pump. And bingo – he discovered that it was fried! He just happened to have a replacement out in his truck, and within minutes the water came gushing out of the faucet like the lost Fountain of Youth!
It turned out the culprit wasn’t last week’s subzero temperatures – but rather Wednesday’s gusty winds that caused numerous power surges throughout the night and blew out the relay switch. We had noticed that all of our clocks were flashing when we returned home at the end of the week, we but didn’t give it much more thought until now. We felt as though we had been reborn, redeemed, rejuvenated.
“Well, that’s a huge relief,” I sighed.
“Yeah,” agreed Ken, “I can hardly wait to take a shower. After using all those baby wipes, I smell like a baby’s butt!”