Frozen pipes burst, bringing flood of emergency calls

SHARE Frozen pipes burst, bringing flood of emergency calls
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Employees at Med Network and Clear Corp. arrived to work at 409 W. Huron St. in River North to find more than two feet of water in their basement offices. | Alisa Hauser/For the Sun-Times

CHICAGO — This week’s warmer temperatures broke the deep freeze plaguing Chicago but also brought on flooding as damaged pipes began to burst.

“We anticipated this might happen because of the hard freeze followed by the fast thaw. When pipes freeze, the ice will expand in the pipe, which can cause a crack. The ice expands more as the temperature rises and the evidence [of damage] presents itself,” said Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

Since Christmas, Langford said, the Fire Department has responded to 307 water leaks and 55 water flow alarms (in which alarms have gone off as a result of water flowing). CFD also has conducted 13 investigations of water spewing out of a building and flowing onto a street. Those numbers, he said, are above average.

One of those calls came in Tuesday morning from a building at 409 W. Huron St. in River North. Around 8 a.m., employees at Med Network and Clear Corp. arrived to find more than 2 feet of water in their basement offices.

“I hope all the files will be OK,” said Med Network employee Kasia Sobiepan, who was on the phone with her boss trying to line up temporary workspace.

“We are shocked,” said a property manager for the building, who did not want to give his name. “We will get through this.”

Sunday night, a pipe burst on the third floor of the Parker, a 29-story, 224-unit luxury apartment tower in Fulton Market. The water gushed down the stairs in an elevator bay and into the lobby, residents said.

No apartments appeared to be affected, according to Kevin Glendinning, an audio engineer who lives on the 20th floor of The Parker.

Glendinning said he found out about the flooding when a friend texted him a short video of the incident as he was coming home from dinner on Sunday.

“I thought it was something that had been going viral, and then I looked at it and realized it was my building,” Glendinning said.

When he got home, Glendinning said the firefighters trying to stop the flowing water were “all business.”

Since the elevator was closed, Glendinning climbed 20 flights of stairs to get to his apartment.

Glendinning texted the flooding video to another friend, ESPN columnist and radio host Sarah Spain, who posted it on Twitter.

“So apparently the Titanic hit my friend’s apartment building,” Spain tweeted.

The Parker was quick to tweet a response.

“Unlike the Titanic, everybody here gets a lifeboat. Thank you to our residents for hanging on,” The Parker replied, with hashtag #weloveourresidents and a photo of Titanic co-star Leonardo DiCaprio.

Glendinning praised the building management and staff for going “above and beyond.”

“It’s all back up and running and as far as inconvenience, it was just the elevators being out. My heart goes out for the staff, they work hard enough as it is and they were running up and down the stairs doing food deliveries. You can’t send a delivery guy all over the building without an elevator,” Glendinning said.

While mid-week temperatures will reach into the 40s and 50s, the forecast for the weekend calls for high temperatures in the 20s and teens. Langford advises residents and owners of commercial buildings to bring their thermostats “up a bit” to protect areas prone to freezing.

Police secured the area after a pipe burst in a building at 409 W. Huron St. | Alisa Hauser/For the Sun-Times

Police secured the area after a pipe burst in a building at 409 W. Huron St. | Alisa Hauser/For the Sun-Times

“Keep a minimum temperature of 40 degrees in places where you have pipes, like un-inhabited basements where there is standing water in pipes,” Langford said.

Last week, after a fire that displaced 15 people on New Year’s Day was determined to be caused by someone using a propane torch to thaw their pipes, the Chicago Fire Department advised residents on how to prevent and thaw frozen pipes.

Residents should prevent their pipes from freezing by running a trickle of water from the taps furthest from where the water pipe comes into the building, Fire Commissioner José Santiago said in a statement.

“But in those cases where pipes do freeze, residents should use a hair dryer to thaw pipes or call for professional help,” Santiago said. “Under no circumstances should anyone use a torch or other open flame to thaw frozen pipes.”

Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire

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