Bitterly cold arctic air is expected to keep temperatures in the Methow Valley about 20 to 30 degrees below normal until the weekend, with wind chill factors in the double digits below zero.
The National Weather Service in Spokane issued a hazardous weather outlook Tuesday for the region, including the east slopes of the North Cascades. Some of the coldest air of the season will linger through Friday (Feb. 7), with wind chills of –5 to –15 degrees, the weather service predicted.
Highs temperatures were predicted to be 11 to 16 degrees, and lows predicted to dip to –11 degrees. Winds of 15- to 20 miles per hour could result in dangerous wind chills in some areas of eastern Washington, the Spokane weather bureau predicted.
By Saturday (Feb. 8), high temperatures were expected to move up into the 20s, with low temperatures of about 12 degrees. Snow was predicted for Saturday night.
The frigid weather means that people may want to protect water pipes and pets from potential cold-related problems.
The cold temperatures, combined with wind and the minimal snow cover, mean an increased risk of frozen pipes, said Dwight Filer of Filer Plumbing in Twisp.
“The combination of cold temperatures and even the smallest breeze is devastating,” Filer said. “The movement of cold air is the main thing that makes pipes freeze.”
Filer advised making sure that crawl spaces are sealed tight to prevent cold air from seeping in. “If you crawl into a crawl space during the day and can see any kind of light coming in, you need to plug it,” he said. “You’re better off doing that than insulating the pipes themselves. If it’s cold long enough the insulation gets as cold as the surroundings.”
Foundation vents that are left open “are a sure recipe for frozen pipes,” Filer said. The flaps on the vents need to be closed, and the vents should be stuffed with insulation as added protection. Similarly, above-ground pump houses should be heated and sealed tight against air seepage, Filer said.
Because there isn’t the normal amount of snow to insulate the ground from the cold, sewer lines are more vulnerable to freezing this winter, Filer said.
“I’ve had a flood of these sewer line calls,” he said. “Certain systems are vulnerable to frozen lines. If your sewer line goes under a walkway or porch where snow doesn’t build up, or under a driveway that is plowed … any bare ground above your septic system is not good.”
Some homeowners leave faucets dripping to prevent frozen pipes, but Filer said that can actually lead to a build-up of ice in sewer lines. “If you have a water line that’s vulnerable and it’s happened before, I’d be reluctant to let it drip,” Filer said.
An option is to run hot water every couple of days to prevent a vulnerable line from freezing. “Every two days turn the hot water tap on full bore and let it run down the drain line until it empties the hot water tank. If you have a 50 gallon tank, that takes about 20 minutes,” he said.
While it’s too late for this winter, Filer advised making sure to pump septic tanks before cold weather hits. “A lot of problems I get are from people who have ignored their septic systems,” he said.
Pets are vulnerable during especially cold weather, and owners should take precautions to keep them safe, said veterinarian Gina Pastore of Winthrop Veterinary Services.
“Some people whose pets are primarily outdoor pets need to make sure they have adequate shelter, and adequate water that’s not going to freeze. Or, bring those pets inside overnight,” Pastore said.
Just like summer, when cars can become too hot for dogs, it’s not safe to leave a dog for long periods in the car during really cold weather, Pastore said.
“The other thing is that a lot of people around here like to get out and ski and do things like that with their dogs,” Pastore said. Shorthaired dogs may need additional warmth of a dog coat, Pastore said. “There are a lot of coats that can be really helpful in keeping them dry and warm.”
Dogs’ feet may also need protection in very cold weather, and booties can help, if the dog will keep them on. “Some dogs don’t leave them on well, some dogs tolerate them,” she said.
Booties can also prevent cuts to the dog’s pads from ice and coarse snow, and prevent snow and ice from building up between their pads, Pastore said.
Most of all, Pastore advises using “common sense” in protecting pets during cold spells. “If you don’t want to be out for very long, then your dog doesn’t want to be out for long either,” she said.