The City of Plattsburg’s Public Works crew has been working overtime to combat service interruptions due to water line breaks. But the extra time hasn’t been the issue. Rather, it’s subzero temperatures that they’ve had to battle.
In particular, on Monday, February 15, around 11 p.m., the department received a call on a line break. The freezing work began around midnight and lasted until nearly 6 a. m. Tuesday, February 16.
The water line break was at 506 Missouri Avenue. Officer Ryan Jensen notified the crew around 11 p.m., and soon they were mobilized with their equipment and on the job. At the time, Officer Jensen noted wind chill temperatures that had dropped to -16.
Those on the scene were Justin Hartzell, Mike May, Carlos Quezada, Paul Read, and Jason Gordon, with City Administrator Greg Harris arriving soon after.
Harris said with the extreme cold, nothing mechanical worked as expected. Hydraulics froze and pumps didn’t operate as designed, so improvisation was a must.
Read’s truck was used to warm up the equipment and crews rotated in and out of the trucks for warmth. Mike and Carlos were in the hole where they worked to repair the pipe. At one point, Jason had to stop and get warm because his eye was frozen shut. Tools were frozen to workers’ hands as they tried to exchange for another one. Eyebrows were white with frost as the steam from the hole rose up to meet the freezing temperatures. The bolts and nuts were frozen tight together.
“Without a doubt, it was the coldest I’ve ever been,” Harris said. “I know many of our crews are visible during the day... I’m telling you, these guys are unbelievable when it comes to responding to emergencies, like that night on Missouri Avenue. I don’t know of many who would get up in the middle of the night to fix a water leak in those kinds of conditions. That is why they are the best crew I’ve ever worked around, and Plattsburg is lucky to have them dedicated to their job at public works.”
This is one of several line issues the city has quickly addressed during a brutally cold month. An eight-inch line blew near Town and Country Lane about a half-mile south of 116 Highway on Thursday, February 11. That break required a boil advisory. There was a break at Fifth and Walnut on Friday and a break on N. Main Street this past Saturday. Then, Sunday, the city had air release issues in two locations.
“If we can do it live and avoid a boil advisory,” Harris said, “it’s all about minimizing the impact on residents.”
Harris said many towns and groups have dealt with line issues during the recent polar weather, and he added that Plattsburg’s issues have come along water lines that are slated to be replaced as part of an upcoming water project.
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