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Chicago-Area Plumbers' Phones Ring Off The Hook With Continuing Bitter Cold

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago-area plumbers are inundated with calls from homeowners whose pipes are frozen or broken. And the worst may be yet to come.

WBBM had to call nine plumbers before one could spare the time to talk about anything more than bare numbers. When one did, Bishop Plumbing Service's Manager Brian Wilk said he arrived at work Tuesday to find 40 messages waiting and another 40 by mid-day. He said the thaw predicted for the weekend could prompt a whole new stream of problems with bursting pipes.

"Those lines may have broken, the ice will thaw and then the house may have literal running water because pipes are broken and they did not even realize it happened because they waited," Wilk said.

One particularly weak spot, if not shut off, is the pipe to the garden faucet. Wilk said it could break the first time it is put under pressure in the spring. He said the best way to thaw it now is using a hair dryer.

Elsewhere on the North Shore, Wilmette Lucke Plumbing heard from 40 unlucky homeowners by midday Tuesday. F.J. Kerrigan in Wilmette had 20 calls. Braschi Plumbing in Winnetka had close to 30 calls and V.J. Kilian in Winnetka was getting a steady two calls an hour. Glenbrook Plumbing said simply, "We're swamped."

Three refused comment, citing high workloads.

Wilk said if you want to avoid a costly service call, trickle hot and cold water together in a slow stream -- mere drops are not enough -- and to open interior cabinet doors if pipes are hidden inside, to allow warmer air to circulate. He said when temperatures increase a bit later in the week, additional frozen pipes will break.

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