Below-freezing temperatures followed by thawing this past weekend led to waterline ruptures in the Ketchikan area and a declaration of a city water emergency in the community of Saxman. KRBD’s Maria Dudzak has this update.

When temperatures warmed up on Saturday, frozen sprinkler systems failed at about a dozen businesses in downtown Ketchikan. That’s according to the city’s water division manager John Kleinegger.

“Things gradually thawed and what had been frozen suddenly sprung apart or leaked and the sprinklers went wet and in many cases caused internal damage.”

He says mostly seasonal jewelry stores were affected, but a few year-round businesses experienced failures too. Water damage ranged from minor to extensive. Kleinegger says the sprinkler systems burst due to lack of heat in the buildings.

In addition, a water main break occurred in Hopkins Alley when a hydrant froze.

“And as it froze, the connection back to the main also froze, and damaged the connection to where everything had to be replaced.”   

Crews worked for about 15 hours to restore service to that area. He says last weekend there were also reports of frozen pipes from more than 25 homes throughout the community.

Lori Richmond is Saxman’s city administrator. She says frozen pipes burst in two commercial buildings and began leaking when temperatures increased.  By the time the leaks were discovered, the community’s reservoir level was below a 24-hour supply, prompting a water emergency.

“Asking them to only use water for life and property.”

The conservation notice was lifted Wednesday morning.

To prevent future problems, Richmond advises businesses and homeowners to disconnect hoses and winterize the faucets.

“If you know that you have a house with no insulation on the pipes underneath you need to be highly diligent about checking for leaks when the weather warms up.

Richmond says to help prevent future incidents, Saxman’s water plant operator will pre-plan for commercial buildings, by checking pipes during cold snaps and identifying where water shut-off valves are located.

The rest of this week calls for rain with temperatures in the 40s.