It’s been a crazy week if you run a heating, plumbing or fuel oil business in upstate New York.
Calls for broken furnaces, frozen or burst pipes and empty oil and propane tanks have inundated businesses as the worst cold snap in at least 15 years brings record low temperatures day after day.
One heating repair business said the emergency calls over the weekend were about five times higher than normal.
“We’ve run over 200 emergency calls over the last week, 100 of them were this weekend alone,” said Gary Reed, director of business operations at Jack Hall Plumbing and Heating in Glens Falls.
Kristen Williams, residential manager at Northern Heating & Air in Queensbury, called the cold spell’s business spike “unprecedented.”
She said a cold winter weekend will usually result in three to five “sheets” of emergency calls from the company’s answering service, but this weekend led to 16 of them.
Customers have been understanding, knowing that the cold has caused region-wide problems, she said.
“Our customers have been great. They understand we are getting a lot of calls, but they need their heat back on,” Williams said.
Furnace repairs have been only part of the business surge. The cold has caused water pipes that are exposed to cold or aren’t well insulated to freeze and, in some cases, rupture. That can lead to flooding, or if not noticed quickly, flooding that endangers basement electrical equipment.
“We have been seeing a lot of burst pipes,” Reed said.
Two municipal water line ruptures, in Chester and Salem, were believed linked to cold weather-related ruptures.
Residents should leave water trickling overnight in connections where there is concern about home pipes freezing, as the movement of water can keep it from freezing. Heating tape is another option for colder areas.
Jack Hall Plumbing and Heating was using social media to inform people of the possible wait and influx of calls, but also to provide tips to homeowners to try a few basic things to try to solve the issue themselves before needing a surface call. Checking whether there was power to the furnace, it had fuel, all doors and compartments to it were closed and that the thermostat was set correctly were recommended.
To help the furnace during cold streaks, Reed recommended that homeowners keep their thermostat at a constant temperature, not lowering it at night, so the furnace or boiler don’t have to work harder in the morning to warm the house back up.
Those looking for a break in the record-breaking cold will get a little respite Wednesday and Thursday, when temperatures will rise into the 20s, but another bitter weekend is expected.
National Weather Service meteorologist Christina Speciale said Wednesday and Thursday mornings won’t be as cold, but after a round of light snow on Thursday, even colder weather will move in for the weekend.
“The weekend is probably going to be colder,” she said. “The high on Saturday may not break zero.”
High winds that will follow Thursday’s storm will make it feel even colder, she added.
Tuesday’s morning low of 25 below zero at Warren County airport broke the record for the day at that NWS station, which was minus 24 set in 1968. (If you are wondering, the all-time record low at the airport reporting station was 35 below zero, set on Jan. 27, 1994.)
Tuesday was the fifth day of the last six where a record low was set at the airport. Only on Sunday, when the low only sunk to “just” 14 below zero, was a record not set.