OCEAN CITY — Persistent frigid weather over the last week or so has resulted in hundreds of incidents of frozen water pipes bursting and flooding residences and businesses, including a couple that will be forced to close for a couple of weeks.
Late last week and through last weekend, temperatures around the resort area rarely if ever got above the freezing mark and many of the days saw high temperatures in the teens. Through mid-week, temperatures rose slightly, but a winter storm dropped about six inches of snow on the area Tuesday, complicating the issue. Late this week, another blast of arctic air has arrived in the area, resulting in the same extreme drops in temperature.
As a result, the area has seen hundreds of cases of frozen pipes bursting and flooding residences and businesses with no relief in sight. Ocean City Communications Director Jessica Waters said on Wednesday there had been over 200 reported cases of frozen pipes bursting in the resort alone, including 37 from Monday to Wednesday.
Waters said the majority of the reported cases were residential, although a handful were reported at commercial properties with varying degrees of damage. Among those commercial properties with frozen pipe damage were Five Guys, Abbey Burger, Kabob House and Coins, the latter of which will be forced to close for two to three weeks. Over in Ocean Pines, La Hacienda had a frozen pipe burst in an area of the building that was not part of the restaurant and suffered significant flooding damage.
“Frozen pipes thawed out and burst, which created flooding in our dining room,” said La Hacienda owner Bill Herbst on Wednesday. “It was a water supply line from the doctors’ offices above the restaurant. Sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, the pipes thawed out and burst.”
Herbst said the damage was confined to his main dining room area, but will still cause the restaurant to be closed while repairs are made.
“It flooded my whole dining room, but luckily it was limited to the dining room and didn’t affect the bar area and the kitchen,” he said. “I’ll probably have to be closed for a couple of weeks.”
Despite the setback, Herbst was taking the flooding issue and associated restaurant closure in stride this week.
“It’s a pain, but it isn’t anything that can’t be fixed,” he said. “Nobody got hurt and it’s just something we have to work through and deal with the insurance and restoration companies. I guess if you’re going to have an incident that closes down your restaurant, there really isn’t a better time of year for it. At least it’s not July or August.”
Over at Coins in Ocean City, a similar situation played out that will result in the establishment’s temporary closure, said Manager Charlotte Kuti.
“It’s a mess,” she said. “We had water throughout the bar area. Royal Plus is drying it up right now, but I’ll probably be closed for two to three weeks or longer.”
While repairs can be made and damaged property can be restored or replaced, the incident has left people out of work at a particularly tough time of the year.
“It’s devastating in the sense that I have all of these people that need to work,” she said. “We’re going to move through the process as fast as possible to get our people back to work and reopen for our guests.”
Insurance companies have had their phones ringing off the hook over the last week or so as more and more claims for frozen pipes and resulting flooding come in. Beth Gismondi of Gismondi Insurance Associates said there have been new claims in the last few days alone.
“We’ve had a lot of broken pipes and sprinkler system pipes too,” she said. “It is a mess in the community. Cold air of this duration is just not usual. Heat pumps are not able to keep up with this kind of Arctic air.”
Gismondi offered sound advice for homeowners and commercial property owners as the deep freeze continues into the weekend.
“At the first sign of a frozen pipe, you must call a plumber and get the pipes unfrozen,” she said. “Hopefully, the homeowner or renter will not have any broken pipes and water gushing inside or outside. It’s important to thaw the pipe before it bursts, and to do that warm-up slowly. I recommend letting the professional plumber do his job.”
The Ocean City Fire Department also has advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of the frozen, bursting water pipe issue. Among the recommendations are wrapping wet water pipes with an approved heat tape. However, wet sprinkler pipes often cannot be wrapped with heat tape. All sprinklered areas of a home or business should be checked to ensure they are above freezing. In the case of residences or businesses unoccupied for the winter, water pipes can also be drained.
Finally, emergency contact numbers should be posted on the outside of the building so the fire department can contact responsible parties in the event of a pipe breakage. In addition, key lock boxes, which can be purchased from the OCFD, can allow access into a building in the event of an emergency to allow firefighters to turn off water mains.