How the hell are there icicles inside houses in Texas? The scientific answers revealed
The normally temperate state of Texas experienced some of the coldest weather on record this week when snow blanketed most of the central part of the country, leading to widespread power outages and water shortages. Dallas-Fort Worth even saw temperatures drop to minus 2 degrees Tuesday morning, a negative number not seen in North Texas for 72 years.
How cold was it? Outside, the Texas freeze froze pools and hot tubs. And those freezing conditions left uninsulated power grids struggling to keep up. Millions of Texans then suffered blackouts or blackouts as cold temperatures persisted for days. To add to the suffering, hundreds of thousands of North Texas homes with electric heat have lost the ability to keep their homes warm.
— diana✨ (@xdianarose) February 17, 2021
And so what the Texans had to endure went from bad to worse: namely, icicles formed inside people’s Lone Star homes, with freezing water even hanging from ceiling fans.
How do those spikes of ice that usually form on an exterior eave end up in Texas living rooms and bathrooms? And more importantly, how can you prevent this from happening to you? We explain everything below.
What causes icicles inside?
That’s how cold it is in my apartment.
As a Texan, yes, I’m definitely not cut out for that. I do not care. pic.twitter.com/FMt8imglJp
— ☩ (@ThomasBlackGG) February 16, 2021
Icicles form inside houses when water somehow seeped inside and the temperature inside dropped to match the freezing conditions outside.
“A lot of times the water comes through the roof, which can be caused by a frozen water pipe that has burst,” explains Diana Rodriguez-Zabapresident of ServiceMaster Recovery by Zaba, a certified water damage restoration company in Chicago. “Or the water from the ice dam could have melted and flowed back into the house.”
(A ice dam is a frozen ridge that can form at the edge of a roof and prevent melting snow from running off. The water can then rise behind the dam and seep inside.)
When you combine a water leak with a poorly insulated house – which has no electricity for heating – the dripping water eventually freezes into an ice cube if the temperature is cold enough. (To put into perspective how cold it is in some people’s homes, icicles typically form on days when the ambient temperature is below zero.)
Why is Texas particularly vulnerable to inland ice?
Many homes in Texas are built on slabs, and so water heaters, furnaces, and water pipes are in the attic instead of a basement. If homes cannot provide sufficient heating due to power outages, this water can become extremely dangerous.
“If the house freezes, the water pipes can burst and rain through the ceiling,” explains Deb Tomaroa real estate professional serving south-central Indiana whose extended family lives in Texas.
According to the Dallas Water Utility, he responded to more than 1,000 bursts, frozen pipes from Wednesday 10 a.m. And this dripping water then flows through electrical openings, ceiling or walls, causing major damage and icicles.
“My parents just spoke to a neighbor who had two massive ceiling collapses,” Tomaro says.
What to do if you have ice cubes
“People usually break ice cubes because they are dangerous when they melt and fall,” explains Marge Biswasa Texas-registered architect and owner of the Dallas architecture firm Archiphy.
The safest way to knock down icicles is to use a large pole. Just exercise extreme caution when doing so. Stand where the icicles cannot hit and hurt you. If you’re not sure what to do, call a water damage professional.
Also ask a specialist to come and identify the source of moisture in your home that is causing ice to form. If you have a frozen and burst pipe, it will need to be repaired. You will then have to deal with the water damage and the reconstruction work necessary to restore your home.
How to Prevent Indoor Ice
– mb (@michaelbrom) February 17, 2021
If you can, keep faucets at a trickle to allow water to move and prevent pipes from freezing. If you can’t do this, the best advice to homeowners with frozen pipes is to shut off the water completely. Use this guide to find out where the valve is in your home.
“My 78-year-old parents are trying to figure out how to shut off the water main for the night because they have electricity during the day but no electricity at night,” says Tomaro.
And if you notice ice dams forming on the roof of your home, start by carefully removing them right away, either by yourself or with a professional. Waiting for the ice dams to melt on their own will create all sorts of damage. And definitely contact a professional to see what is causing the ice dams to form in the first place.
“If you notice signs of water damage in your home, especially on roofs and ceilings, have a water damage restoration specialist identify the source of the problem and prevent the damage from spreading. “, explains Rodriguez-Zaba.
How to restore water safely
When you turn your water back on, listen for leaks from the main water valve and the water tank. Also listen for leaks in any piping. A leak will usually sound like a hissing or hissing sound in the pipe itself, in addition to any dripping noise at the point of the leak. If something is ringing, turn off the water immediately and call your plumber as soon as possible.
Texans may then want to ask their plumber to better insulate their pipes to prevent interior ice from forming again.