Cold conditions cause water main breaks

A water main break impacts a neighborhood on N. Oneida St. in Green Bay, Jan. 28, 2014.
A water main break impacts a neighborhood on N. Oneida St. in Green Bay, Jan. 28, 2014. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

GREEN BAY – Our bone-chilling temperatures that reached near -20 degrees in the area are moving frost deeper and deeper into the ground.

It’s causing pipes to break, and some people to lose water.

And others to have to work in this cold replacing the pipes.

An early morning haze covered N. Oneida St. in Green Bay. An overnight water main break sent water flowing through the neighborhood, leaving Nora Reschke and her family without water.

“I think it’s crazy how big a hole there is right now,” said Nora Reschke, Green Bay.

A few blocks away on North Ashland Avenue, Raymond Funk is prepared.

“I don’t know what to think. I got some pitchers full of water in the house. Other than that, I just have to wait until they turn it back on,” said Raymond Funk, Green Bay.

“The frost levels last week were at about four and a half to five feet down. And our water main is sitting at about seven feet, six to seven feet down. So as that frost goes down, frost is like concrete. It causes the ground to shift as it goes down,” said Nancy Quirk, Green Bay Water Utility general manager.

And in downtown Appleton, a broken water main flooded streets. The library was closed and buses at the terminal next door were re-routed.

“And addition to that, the restrooms are closed because the water shut off so we’re getting the buses in and out, but it does create challenges,” said Nikki Voelzke, Valley Transit community relations.

And there is trouble at the NEW Zoo in Suamico. Workers noticed a spot of soggy ground Monday, and are trying to find out where it came from.

Zoo Director Neil Anderson says it could be the otter pond, or a leak in the pipe under the nearby blacktop road.

“If we lose this line, it also means that we have to move some animals around. Then our zookeepers are going to have to haul water to all the exhibits on this Wisconsin Trail,” said Anderson.

Back in Green Bay, a second break on N. Oneida St. kept crews on scene through the afternoon.

“This is the coldest it’s been since 1993 or so. Last year, we had 27 water main breaks in January. Right now, we’re up to 54. So we’ve doubled what we had last year,” said Quirk.

In recent days, the Green Bay Water Utility also responded to nearly 30 calls from people with frozen pipes in their homes.

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