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IU's essential personnel worked around the clock to fix broken pipes during big freeze

Jan. 16, 2014

Last week’s sub-zero temperatures took a major toll on homes and buildings throughout Bloomington.

frozen pipes

The icy conditions caused pipes around campus to freeze and rupture.

And while the majority of IU faculty and staff stayed home Jan. 6 and 7, when IU campuses across the state closed -- the first Bloomington campus closure since Dec. 26, 2012 -- employees from IU Bloomington Physical Plant’s Heating and Plumbing shop reported to work to fix broken pipes in Memorial Stadium, Briscoe Quadrangle, Bart Kaufman Field and the Arboretum.

“The roads were bad, but as essential personnel, we knew we would have to come in even if the university shut down,” said Patrick Jacobs, Physical Plant plumbing supervisor. “The freezing temperatures were wicked to work in too."

Jacobs said the end-of-week thaw caused more problems, such as bursted heating coils in buildings. The team from Physical Plant stepped up to the challenge. “Everyone has been working really hard. I’m so proud,” Jacobs said.

Knowing the students would return to campus so quickly after the winter storm ended added another layer of stress. “We want to get these buildings back up and running for the students and faculty as quickly as we can,” he said the week of Jan. 6.

The process of fixing a broken pipe takes eight to 14 hours to complete, he said. The water line must be thawed to find and repair the source of the leak. 

Tips for home

The pipes in your home are at risk of damage from freezing temperatures. Experts from the IU Physical Plant offer tips for keeping pipes intact when temperatures drop.

  • Even if you’re leaving your home for an extended period of time, keep the temperature of your house at 68 degrees or higher.
  • Allow a faucet to drip lightly to provide relief from the excessive pressure that builds between the faucet and ice blockage when freezing occurs.
  • Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow heat from the home to reach the pipes.
  • Wrap pipes in exterior walls and in crawl spaces with pipe insulation or tape.
  • Seal cracks and holes near water pipes with caulking to keep cold wind away from the pipes.
  • Insulate outside walls and unheated areas of your home.
  • Identify the location of the main water valve and valve on your water heater as a precautionary measure.

View the list of IU Bloomington campus closures throughout the years from IU Archives. 

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