I knew how cold it was, and was keeping the house warmer than I ever do, opening the cabinet doors to make sure pipes got as warm as the rooms they were in, running water through the faucets to fend off what finally happened.
The two hot water pipes in the upstairs bathroom – sink and tub – and the cold water pipe in the tub all froze within minutes of each other. I watched the cold water freeze up – very dramatic. Discovered that the rat that had tried to get into the house last summer had chewed a big enough hole that the pipes were exposed to the frigid temperatures of outside.
So after about two minutes of panic, I decided it was just a problem to solve – and that problems work out pretty well for me. I sent a yardstick through the hole to the outside, so that I could see where the hole was. Stuffed that with steel wool in case any other critter should get the same idea, and stuffed the inside with old Tshirts as insulation. Then I sat a space heater about a foot away from the door, and let warm air start flowing in.
After a couple of hours, the sound of water pouring out of the cold water faucet announced that that problem had been solved – leaving a new one: the tub was draining very slowly, so it was going to be chancy to leave the faucet dripping to keep the pipe open. I put a piece of tape in the tub so I could see if it was moving – so slow it was hard to tell otherwise. Lost a game of scrabble, then checked again. The tub had emptied – not a gradual improvement, but suddenly empty.
I went to bed, figuring the hot water pipes would tell me when they were thawed – and within an hour they had. So Friday went well, Saturday was no water pipe news, which was good. Then Saturday night, minutes after I got home from a movie, there was a tremendous racket downstairs. The water pipe in the garage had burst. I’m an old hand at that one – it’s happened 3 or 4 times, mostly when it gets turned back off for some use after it’s already been drained for the season. I just climbed on a chair, turned the faucet off super tight, and watched the dripping cease. Swept the rest of it out of the garage onto the drive. A joint had burst, and will be easier to fix than if a pipe had a hole in it.
So – reminders about caretaking and paying attention. But no big consequences. And that’s a good thing!