The arctic-like cold that swept through the East Coast this week made for a busy string of days for Rockville’s Public Works Department, whose crews fixed five water main breaks in two days—braving freezing temperatures in the process.
On Tuesday, it took crews several ours to repair a broken 10-inch main at Mt. Vernon Place, affecting water usage for about 25 residences and businesses, Patch has reported.
Four other water main breaks were reported Tuesday and Wednesday, though they affected fewer than 25 residents, according to figures provided by city staff. Those breaks happened at:
- College Parkway and Nelson Street—No homes or businesses affected
- Chapman Avenue and Thompson Avenue—One home was without water during the repair process
- 820 Jefferson Street—Ten homes were without water during the repair process.
- Thompson Avenue—No homes or businesses were affected
Water main breaks are more common in cold weather because
such weather causes pipes to contract and expand.
Contributing to the problem was a so-called polar vortex that has since eased up on the East Coast after days of severe cold. Temperatures in this region are usually in the 40s this time of year, but highs barely made it to the teens earlier this week. Temperatures fell below zero once wind chill was factored in, according to National Weather Service climate data.
“We are clearly experiencing weather-related breaks and today is certainly a peak so far this fiscal year,” Craig Simoneau, director of the Department of Public Works said Wednesday. “But the numbers so far this fiscal year are not indicative of any record.”
There have been 24 water main breaks in Rockville for fiscal year 2014, which began July 1, 2013, according to city data.
For comparison, the city experienced 47 breaks over the same time period last fiscal year. There were a total 59 breaks in fiscal year 2013.
According to the city’s website, more than 46,000 people receive their water from Rockville’s water treatment plant, which produces 2 billion gallons of water from its perch on the banks of the Potomac River.
Other Rockville residents are served by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which has also had a busy past few days.
In Gaithersburg on Tuesday, water main breaks created icy conditions and traffic delays at MD 355 and Chestnut Street and at Chestnut Street and Meem Avenue.
Since Tuesday, WSSC crews had repaired 43 repaired broken pipes—though, as of 10 a.m. Thursday, the power provider said that there were 45 more broken water mains “in the queue.”
Hopefully there will be some relief soon. Temperatures were expected to steadily climb to a seasonably warm 60 degrees by Saturday, according to a NWS forecast.