Cold weather wreaking havoc on water pipes throughout area

SILVER SPRING, Md. (WJLA) - Water crews throughout the nation's capital have spent the last several days of this historic cold snap doing what they normally do - dig and dig and dig - at an accelerated rate.

After a while, these crews find what they're looking for: one of many cracked water mains that have succumbed to the plunging temperatures throughout suburban Maryland.

The main breaks are hard to find and fix for crews and cause big headaches for home and business owners, who have had to go hours and days without water in the midst of the coldest stretch in several eyars.

"There's still water in the house; it's down to a trickle, but it's never happened before here," homeowner Dena Leibman said.

The arctic blast has been tough on the big pipes underground, but perhaps even tougher on the smaller ones that run into and through homes and businesses. At one point Tuesday, WSSC officials said they were dealing with more than three dozen separate breaks.

For Richard Mashinter and his team at Stevens Plumbing, working overtime and a bevy of calls have been the norm, as customers suddenly have no water coming out of their faucets or too much water on their floors.

"Once this starts to thaw, it's either going to thaw and expand and come out of this faucet, or it's going to split this pipe somewhere and water is mysteriously going to start showing up," he said.

It's exactly what happened at the Doorways Family Shelter in Arlington late Tuesday night, where 20 people - many of them babies and small children - were evacuated after a pipe broke and water gushed everywhere.