Cold. Damn cold. Freezin’ ass cold (or FAC as Dutch, the retired Coast Guard Captain calls it). It was minus thirty-three degrees again this morning, as it was yesterday and the day before, plus or minus a few. It is as cold here as Fairbanks, and colder than Bethel! Where’s my maritime influence, for Pete’s sake? I don’t mind a quick dip into Really Cold—a few days, maybe a week. It’s been about three weeks since we last saw zero, and life is taking a beating for it.
The water pipes to the kitchen sink (on an outside wall) have been frozen off and on for two weeks. With a space heater on high under the sink, the pipes would thaw every few days, for a few hours, and then refreeze. I was hauling a five gallon bucket of water from the garage for dipping next to the kitchen sink.
On Saturday, for no known reason, all the electrical outlets in the kitchen lost power. Including the refrigerator. OK, drag out the coolers, freezer stuff to the front porch (no lack of freezing capacity there), refrig stuff to the garage. Turn garage thermostat down to 48 from 58, pour 3” of water in second cooler, set outside to freeze (two hours), then pack refrig stuff in with a thermometer and keep next to the car. OK, this works for a hopefully very few days.
On Sunday water returned to the kitchen sink about 3 pm. I had the faucets on so I'd know if water started flowing, and promptly turned them off. About 5 pm I heard water flowing somewhere. All water points in the house were off and dry. Not good. I opened the back door to the loud sound of water, not running but gushing. A six foot strip of wall under the kitchen sink looked like Niagara Falls. OMGOMGOMG!
I ran back in and turned off the water valves under the kitchen sink, which was dry. Of course, no change. I could hear it outside, gushing away and freezing into a rapidly-growing ice fall. I had no idea where the main water valve to the house is. What to do, what to do? I didn’t know anyone to call, Dutch was in Texas. And then another dread thought. The water is not all going outside the house.
Eeeewwwwwww, the basement. I had never been down there. The landlady retained possession of it, to store incredible quantities of junk. And a few weeks ago, Bear, the mighty hunter, killed a mouse that got into the house as it was trying to escape under the door to the basement (since stuffed with a draft puppy). I had no idea what I would find down there, and did not want to look.
The rickety stairs had my attention more than the low beam over the steps and I cracked my head good on the way down, which did not help anything. Despite the stars, I got to the bottom of the steps; at least it was well lit. And yes, water was pouring down the inside of the concrete wall, spraying cardboard boxes of junk, and standing about an inch deep in a widening circle on the floor. Boxes were stacked against the wall three deep and six feet high with various camping gear thrown on top. I could just see a water valve at the ceiling level; there was no way to get to it until I moved all the gear and boxes.
It went faster than I thought; adrenalin is an amazing thing. Once the wall was clear, the valve was still about five feet above my head and there was no ladder or step stool around. I finally found a chair under some other stuff and, standing on it, was barely able to reach the valve. It worked. The flood stopped. And what a beautiful silence followed.
I spent Monday calling plumbers and electricians. The plumber came Tuesday and said the hot water pipe to the kitchen sink was not just cracked; a three foot section of it was shattered. He replaced hot and cold pipes both, moved them further away from the outside wall, and recommended not closing the cabinet doors to the space under the sink when it is this cold. So I have running water in the kitchen again, and at this temperature, consider it pretty much of a miracle.
The electrician was to have come today, but now it will be tomorrow. At $75/hr, I’d rather wait another day than pay overtime. I’m just glad they can come this week. The frozen food is NOT a problem. And now I have no excuse to put off scrubbing out the refrigerator.
Everyone I see has a look of dogged determination about getting through this cold snap. And nearly everyone has heard that “it’ll only be a few more days” until we get back to our more normal temperatures of +10 to +20F. They said it last week and the week before. It has to come true eventually. The crystal blue sky outside doesn’t give me hope that it will be tomorrow, but maybe by the weekend. I’m ever the optimist.
Photos by The Tundra PA: sunrise on Mt. Redoubt, 10:20 AM; and moose at sunset, 3:56 pm. Are you tired of moose pictures yet?
Labels: Life in Kenai