Recent dramatic weather changes could have contributed to a water main break that Colorado Springs Utilities officials estimated would take at least six hours to fix, keep 17 homes without water Thursday.
The water break was called in shortly after 8 a.m. but icy road conditions and below freezing temperatures stalled repair crews, who arrived at the site on the 4600 block of Bluestem Lane, off Oro Blanco Drive and Barnes Road, for nearly two hours.
"With these kinds of temperatures, it takes a little bit longer than normal to make repairs, just getting to the location can be challenging," utilities spokesman Steve Berry said.
As temperatures in El Paso County dropped as far as minus 23 degrees overnight, some of the region's pipes suffered the effects of what Berry explained as a unique freeze-and-thaw cycle. Temperatures fluctuate drastically in Colorado, he said, causing the ground to shift and change constantly, affecting the pipes.
"The pipes in that neighborhood are made of cast iron and were put in during the 1970s," Berry said. "There's a lot less give in that material than in the newer PVC pipes."
Repair crews had not determined for the cause of the break to the six-inch diameter pipe, but Berry guessed that the age of the pipes, combined with arctic conditions, played a role.
"It's even harder to patch asphalt in this weather," Berry said.
Luckily, the water that leaked onto Bluestem Lane ran off about two blocks downhill and into a storm drain, not raising concerns about icy roads. Often during winter months, that adds to repair crews' worries because they may have to block off road access, which makes things worse if a pipe bursts in a heavily-used roadway.
"We just really need customers to be patient," Berry said.