The Year Was 2011, January 1st
The year was 2011, January 1st. The temperature hit -25 degrees in Flagstaff. The surrounding communities such as Sedona and Camp Verde which are at much lower elevations saw temperatures below zero as well. We actually saw a week of below freezing high temperatures (32 degrees). I will never forget that week. At Mammoth Restoration, the phone started ringing continuously, and by the evening of January 2nd, we had 25 new active jobs, and 26 waiting. That was just the tip of the iceberg. The overwhelming majority were in Sedona and the Verde Valley. In Flagstaff, Williams and surrounding areas, the pipes were still frozen. Floodaggedon awaited.
For Flagstaff, the coldest temperature ever recorded was minus -30 degrees, on January 22, 1937. That January saw 17 days with temperatures below 0 degrees, according to a temperature history for the area compiled by the Weather Service.
In 2011, we had a map and pushpins and would color code jobs. As the days went by, the jobs started coming in at higher elevations, you could basically just chase the jobs up the hill on our map, as temperatures increased, pipes thawed and often ruptured. We soon rented over 100 dehumidifiers and 400 air movers to add to our already 50 and 200 that we owned at the time. Nearly every job required heavy demolition. I personally towed our dump trailer to the majority of the bigger jobs, grabbing all the debris and hauling to the closest landfill and transfer stations. Our crews worked nearly 6 weeks straight, with new calls coming in hourly. By Presidents Weekend, I made a decision to shut down for 3 days before we physically collapsed. All calls were forwarded to my brother Mitch who owns Clear Services Restoration in Gilbert, Arizona.
Why, how could this happen? I’m no established scholar, but I will give you a few theories. It is all part of Arizona’s diverse terrain. Where else can you be in your pool in the desert sipping an ice cold drink, only to get up early the next morning to drive 2 and a half hours and ski in a snowstorm? Even the weather channel to this day does not give an accurate forecast for Flagstaff and the Coconino Forest areas. It’s an anomaly, when a region has so much diversity. We live it, Flagstaff is somewhat third world to the average consumer. Flagstaff is also paradise (please don’t tell anyone) paradise is why 30% of our homes are second owned, more popularly known as “mountain homes or cabins”. Just like anything else, your mountain home often goes neglected, not necessarily on purpose, just more from out of sight – out of mind. Roofs, gutters, foliage, accidents, like not turning the heat on because the last time you visited it was August before the kids went back to school. Many homes had their heat off or inoperable due to maintenance issues. (Note, insurance will likely deny coverage in this instance) However, many had the heat on and just lost the battle of cold vs. man made heat and structures. The number one mistake second homeowners make is leaving their water supply charged. This can often be avoided by using a property manager or a concierge service that checks on and manages your home on a weekly basis. When you are in your desert home and you think 50 degrees is chilly, you’re not thinking of your mountain home and what damage it could be incurring. There may not have been anything to prevent the water damage, as your home was not properly built in the first place.
As Northern Arizona slowly started to grow in the 50s, 60s and 70s. There really was no formal building code. A majority of homes were built by Phoenix builders. They brought their crews and supplies from Phoenix, and built the home just like they would in Phoenix. Many moved here, and brought the Phoenix code with them. A good friend of mine who is a superintendent with a large commercial builder, took an assignment 10 years ago in Fairbanks, Alaska. They were to build several homes on the Air Force base there. The first order of business was a 3 week class on how to build a freeze proof structure in an environment that will see wind chills of negative -100 degrees. Temperatures in Fairbanks won’t get over the freeze mark for months. This is what I believe was lacking in Northern Arizona. I have seen water supply pipes in attics, 6 inches above the blown insulation or just slightly under. Pipes against exterior walls. R9 Batt insulation that wouldn’t be suffice for a travel trailer. The list goes on and on. No fault to anyone but the fact that they never thought it could get this cold.
Fire suppression systems soon became mandatory in new buildings, however, these too were not installed to a cold climate code. Fire suppression is a licensed industry that will not see your average plumber engaged in. We would often see these pipes fail due to being installed in voids with no insulation at all. Condominium associations are popular for having these fail points, namely in the fire wall between two units.
You have to remember the diversity of a Northern Arizona as well. We could be in a single wide trailer in Cottonwood that had a swamp cooler as the source, due to the fact they never shut the water supply line off as it was no longer needed. Next stop would be a $2 million dollar Sedona home that had a RO system fails and ran for 2-3 days before being discovered. There are many, many different types of homes, structures, schools, commercial buildings etc. all built by different builders who may or may not of had the proper foresight to build here.
What can you do to make sure your home is safe from pipe freezing? First, We would suggest an energy audit. Eli Chamberlin of Cozy Home can point you in the right direction. Eli and his team will conduct a survey, and put together a price to upgrade your homes energy retention by fixing all the points where your home is losing heat. Attics, doors, fireplaces, windows, etc. are the popular points. You may also qualify for government or city assistance by doing so. I received a check for $300 from the City of Flagstaff after my home was audited and repairs were made. Secondly, hire a property manager, Northern has several great property managers, and or concierge services to manage and care for your 2nd home. They often visit the homes and check on the welfare of it. They will manage your vendors needed, such as security companies, landscapers, handymen, HVAC, etc. they will also turn your water off and on before you arrive. 3rd, make friends with a good neighbor. We check a few homes up here from time to time for friends we have made through the years. 4th, install a water shut off valve inside your home. If you are not going to do any of my first three suggestions? This can save you a lot of time and money. If all you do is shut the water off before you leave? At least you know you won’t have a flooded home do to plumbing failures. (Fire suppression is never turned off) 5th, replace your roof sooner than later.
CONTACT MAMMOTH RESTORATION
Mammoth Restoration works with home and business owners throughout Flagstaff and Northern Arizona, insurance companies, the State of Arizona, various law enforcement entities, and other licensed contractors. Call us today for your restoration and remediation needs.
Mammoth Restoration works with home and business owners, insurance companies, the State of Arizona, various law enforcement entities, and other licensed contractors