It's not often that Wichita Falls goes through an extended period with sub-freezing temperatures but that's exactly the situation we're in this week. Those long cold stretches can cause major problems to your water pipes.

The City of Wichita Falls has some recommended best practices we can take to prevent plumbing emergencies.

When water freezes, it expands and puts pipes at risk of rupturing. Pipes in unheated spaces like garages and along exterior walls are the most prone to freezing.

If you have outside faucets you should disconnect and drain your garden hose, then cover the faucet itself with an insulated faucet cover. If you don't have any insulated covers you can fashion one from an old t-shirt or rag by wrapping it around the faucet, then covering that with a plastic bag and finally some duct tape wrap.

Indoor faucets are a little bit easier simply by being inside and not nearly as exposed to sub-freezing temperatures. exposed piping under sinks and inside cabinets can be insulated and cracks near the piping that could allow cold air in from outside should be caulked or sealed. Things like dryer vents and water pipes are prime targets for this.

If you have a sink and pipes along an exterior wall you can open the cabinet doors to let the room temperature air reduce the threat of frozen pipes. As a last resort you can let the faucet drip. You don't need to let it drip too fast, any movement in the water in the pipes will help to prevent it from freezing.

City of Wichita Falls Press Release

What should you do if you've done your best and still have frozen pipes? If at all possible, call a plumber. He'll know best how to thaw a frozen pipe with the least likelihood of causing it to rupture.

If your pipe has already ruptured and you have water entering your house turn it off at your private shutoff valve. This will prevent any more water from getting in while you wait for a plumber to arrive. If you don't know where your shutoff valve is you can call the Wichita Falls Utility Collections office at 940-761-7414, or the Water Distribution office at 940-761-4333 for an emergency turn off. If it's after hours or on the weekend call the Water Distribution office at 940-761-4333. There is a $30 fee if you have to call these numbers for an emergency turn off at the meter.

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Extended periods of sub freezing temperatures are unusual for the Wichita Falls area so construction techniques and building codes are stretched to their limits. A little work on your part now can save a lot of trouble and expense later.

The current forecast indicates this cold snap will last well into next week.

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