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Posted: January 8, 2014 5:18 p.m.

Cold spell leaves broken pipes in wake

Hundreds of calls came in Tuesday, Wednesday

Updates, Wednesday:

5:04 p.m. - Hundreds of calls once again came into Covington and county fire and water departments and the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority as more broken pipes were discovered in the thawing temperatures.

County Fire Chief Kevin O'Brien said Summerset Apartments on Salem Road had some flooding from broken sprinklers, which are being repaired, and Oxford College had broken sprinklers in two of its buildings yesterday, which were fixed last night.

The county fielded about 70 calls in the last 36 hours, while the water authority handled about 100 calls Wednesday and the city around 50 calls.

More calls are expected to come in as people return home and officials once again warned that pipes could refreeze as temperatures drop tonight. The county should be out of the clear once Thursday heats up, as the rest of the weekend is expected to be warm for January.

2:06 p.m. - A cooling tower at the Historic Courthouse overflowed Wednesday, dumping water into the building's parking lot for about 20 minutes. Sand and calcium chloride were placed on the parking lot and no accidents or injuries were reported, according to county facilities manager Jason Johnson.

The overflow was due to a control sensor on the tower failing; the tower overflowed and dumped water into the overflow pipes which are connected to the roof drains, Johnson said.

9:47 a.m. - The Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority ran about 20 after-hours calls, Executive Director Mike Hopkins said, noting "our crews are out now riding over the system looking for any issues with the distribution system."

Newton County Fire Chief Kevin O'Brien said there were no major breaks reported overnight, but the fire dept. did run more calls, including a total of 47 over the last 24 hours, with the majority of them for weather-related issues.

8 a.m. - Covington Fire Station No. 2 on Alcovy Road flooded after water pipes broke, Covington Fire Marshal Capt. Tony Smith said.

The fire department also responded to reports of water pipes breaks at Little Folks Campus child care center on Mill Street and some other residential properties, Smith said.

Original story, Tuesday: Tuesday seemed to get off to a calm start, despite the single-digit temps, but the havoc of pipes broken as a result of freezing water became apparent after noon when residents and businesses began reporting damage and flooding.

The damage hit a wide swath of buildings, including dozens of homes, the Covington homeless shelter, three fire stations and a church, restaurant, nursing home and plastic manufacturer, and calls were still coming as of late Tuesday evening.

Officials expected a steady stream through the night and much of Wednesday as the full scope of damage won’t be known until all pipes have thawed and water starts flowing freely again.

The Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter suffered some of the most significant issues reported, as about 2 inches of water leaked into the women’s building, according to Capt. Tony Smith. Firefighters helped get water out, and residents were able to be moved back into the building, Smith said late Tuesday. Salem United Methodist Church had a major break in its sprinkler system, damaging the gym and main entrance area, said Newton County Fire Chief Kevin O’Brien. Covington News Facebook readers also posted that New Life Praise Center on Stone Mountain Street in Covington and Mansfield Baptist Church experienced pipe damage.

Two county fire stations also had sprinkler system breaks, and a third had a water line break, O’Brien said, estimating the damage to be around $1,500-$2,000 per station.

Double DIPS restaurant in Oxford was temporarily closed because of broken pipes, according to its Facebook page. (The restaurant reopened at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to its Facebook page.)

Ashton Hill Golf Club is also likely to be closed for a few days because of broken pipes, Smith said, while Pactiv, a plastic manufacturer, had sprinkler-system damage, and the Riverside Health Care Center also had some minor leaks, Smith said.

Newton Medical Center also reported two broken pipes, but said the incidences were small.

Advice for residents

Dozens of homes were affected all over the county, with some owners coming home to find water running out of their houses, O’Brien said.

Firefighters and water officials were helping homeowners by shutting off water to the homes at their water meters to minimize water damage.

Mike Hopkins, executive director of the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority, said he expected calls to increase tomorrow once all the broken pipes become evident as the frozen water liquefies.

Hopkins advised residents to be on the lookout for leaks and cut the water off at the meter if possible. If the water can’t be cut off, Hopkins said residents should call their water utility, whether the authority or a city, for help. A plumber should be called to make any repairs.

Rockdale hit hard

Rockdale County was also hit hard.

Rockdale Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Morgan explained that as the sun warmed roof and attic spaces to above freezing, it thawed out frozen pipes in those spaces, which were likely to be sprinkler pipes.

"We expect that to continue as temperatures fluctuate," Morgan said Tuesday.

Lower areas that were not hit by the sunlight, such as basements, may still have burst pipes that are frozen.

Some of the flooded locations include at least five buildings in the Keswick Village Apartments, the Kids R Kids day care on Ga. Highway 20, Peachtree Academy near Salem Road, Barksdale Boys and Girls Club, and the Rockdale Fire and Rescue’s own headquarters at Station No. 7 on Rockbridge Road.

The Barksdale Boys and Girls Club is now closed until further notice, said Teen Center Director Carol Wyre, who fielded calls from worried parents wondering what they were going to do with their kids. The club serves about 300 children and teens in its daily educational and extracurricular programs.

Contractor Matt Fancher, who owns the XSI Disaster Services company, said he brought in industrial heaters for his own equipment and office last night because he couldn’t afford pipes bursting in his business.

He explained that local building codes are not designed with single-digit temperatures in mind since it rarely gets that cold in Georgia.

Chief Morgan said many of the calls that Fire and Rescue was receiving were for places that had been vacant or unoccupied for a time, or next to a vacant place, and heat had been turned down.

Rockdale News Editor Michelle Kim contributed all of the Rockdale County-related content for this story.

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