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Jan 9, 2018 4:01 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Frigid Temperatures On East End Have Plumbers Scrambling To Keep Up With Burst Pipes

Siedlarz Plumbing and Heating has reported more than 30 customers with frozen or burst pipes in the past two weeks. COURTESY JOHN SIEDLARZ
Jan 9, 2018 4:01 PM

Shoveling snow was the least of Douglas Gulija’s worries this weekend as frigid temperatures following last week’s blizzard descended on the East End.

On Saturday evening, the owner of the Plaza Café restaurant in Southampton Village discovered that the cold had caused a pipe above the top of his walk-in refrigerator to freeze and burst. The subsequent leak damaged the compressor and rendered the food inside inedible. He was forced to shut down the restaurant for two days, reopening on Tuesday.

“We got lucky,” Mr. Gulija said on Monday. “It could have been a lot worse.”

The popular seafood restaurant wasn’t the only East End business that suffered from frozen pipes in recent weeks. A frozen pipe burst in the laboratory at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital in the early morning hours on Monday, causing a minor disruption to emergency service protocol, according to hospital officials.

Marsha Kenny, the director of marketing and public affairs for the hospital, said a pipe broke in the laboratory at 1:40 a.m. and was fixed by 4:05 a.m.

Ray Overton, manager of Mulco Plumbing and Heating in Quogue, reported at least 15 calls regarding frozen pipes this past weekend. John Siedlarz, owner of Siedlarz Pluming and Heating in East Hampton, added that he helped out nearly 30 customers with frozen pipes in the last two weeks and was backed up until next week.

“This cold is record-breaking,” Mr. Overton said, explaining that a number of homeowners have experienced similar issues. “We were going pretty strong all weekend long.”

Saturday marked the 11th straight day of temperatures below 32 degrees—with wind gusts of approximately 37 mph that day, however, it felt closer to minus-10 degrees—making it the longest stretch of freezing temperatures since 1979 on the East End, according to the National Weather Service.

The frigid weather followed the “bomb cyclone” weather system that dumped more than a foot of snow on the region last week, battering houses with winds gusts of 54 mph in Shinnecock Bay and 46 mph in Montauk.

Mr. Overton added that the problem with East End houses, especially those on the water, is that many are meant to be vacation homes and not lived in year-round.

“They’re taking their chances,” he said. “If you imagine a house built on pilings, a normal house has foundations. Up on pilings, you’re facing wind from every side possible.”

Mr. Siedlarz agreed, explaining that he recently repaired a frozen pipe in a house with an extended bedroom built on stilts. “It’s exposed to cold air on all but one wall,” he said. “If someone has a house on stilts, they’re going to have frozen pipes.”

Mr. Siedlarz advised that the first indication of frozen pipes is a lack of running water and said that homeowners should immediately shut off the water main should such indications occur: “That will protect your entire house.”

In addition, homeowners should ensure that they have enough oil to heat their houses properly during severe cold spells, Mr. Overton explained. “If you don’t have a big temperature cushion, it’s not too long before things start to freeze.”

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