Cold brings new worries for law, repair crews

Staff Writer

A relatively quiet New Year's holiday has given way to a new set of concerns for area law enforcement. And plumbers are going to be busy if they aren't already.

"We were lucky," Clay County Sheriff Eddie Scott said. "It was pretty quiet."

According to Clay County Jail arrest records, the Sheriff's Department and West Point Police Department logged only three DUI arrests and two misdemeanor domestic violence arrests, Sunday and Monday.

Cold weather, college football and a lack of late-night events, combined with extra patrols by both agencies, contributed to the relative calm, the departments said.

But the cold weather has brought a new set of concerns as police, deputies and emergency responders keep an eye out for the elderly and shut in who might be at risk as the temperatures drop into single digits in some areas.

"We've got our list and we check on them, try to call or go by or make sure a family member is taking care of them," Scott said. "We really hope families will move the elderly to a warm house to make sure nothing happens. A heating system goes out and some of our older citizens might not be safe."

West Point Police Chief Avery Cook agreed.

"When it gets like this, that's our big concern, people not having a warm place to be," he said.

Heating systems not working and frozen pipes have repairmen hopping, they said Tuesday. And that may only get worse once pipes begin to thaw and break.

"We haven't been too busy now, but later after the thaw could get interesting," West Point City Administrator Randy Jones said when asked whether city water crews had been deluged with calls.

"I'm afraid it may be coming." "We're covered up with heating systems not working. And we're getting frozen pipe calls, too," an assistant at Specialty Services in West Point said when answering the phone Tuesday afternoon while owner William Elliott was out on repair calls.

"We're a little busy right now," laughed William Bird, a West Point plumber. "A lot of pipes and things keeping us busy."

And like city crews, the worst may be yet to come.

"The best thing is to keep the water running with a steady stream. Your water bill may be a little higher, but it's not as bad as having us to come out and have to make repairs," Bird advised. "And remember, hot water freezes faster than cold water," he added. "People forget that. And a pipe can freeze up in just two or three hours, even during the day when it's this cold."

The continued cold will mean more frozen pipes and the thaw will mean more breaks.

"We could be even busier with the forecasts," he said. If a pipe freezes, he says putting a heater in the cabinet of the room where the pipe is and monitoring it often will thaw the pipe without a problem.

"Just don't leave it there, don't leave it unmonitored," he said.