Jack Frost nipping at your pipes

Bainbridge Island Plumbing owner Mike Nelson had to get out of the office this week and join his crews in the field performing emergency repairs to island homes. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Bainbridge Island Plumbing owner Mike Nelson had to get out of the office this week and join his crews in the field performing emergency repairs to island homes.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Mike Nelson has been a busy man this week.

“We’re getting a call about every 15 minutes right now,” said Nelson, the owner of Bainbridge Island Plumbing.

With temperatures in the 20s during the day and the teens at night, numerous Bainbridge residents woke up to frozen pipes.

Nelson said he and the company’s two other plumbers have a lot to do even after temperatures warm up.

“Two or three days of this and we’re busy for two to three weeks,” he said.

And forecasts don’t show the cold subsiding anytime soon.

Forecasts from the National Weather Service have lows in the 20s until Saturday night, when there is a 40 percent chance of snow. Forecasts also have a 50 percent chance of snow Sunday, with higher temperatures and rain returning Sunday evening.

As a result of the cold weather, shelters throughout the county were activated this week. According to documentation from the city, the shelters will only remain open until Dec. 14.

For Bainbridge residents to experience the benefits of one of these shelters, they would have to travel to Port Orchard or Bremerton.

“Our resources are limited, so we try to stay as close to where we perceive the population that will use those services is located,” said Susan May, spokeswoman for the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management.

This year marks the second in which emergency management has operated severe weather shelters. Last year, the only shelter was in Bremerton. The shelters are located at the Coffee Oasis (822 Burwell St., Bremerton) and the Spririt of Truth Fellowship (902 Dekalb St., Port Orchard).

Not all people have the ability to make the 30-mile trip to Bremerton or Port Orchard.

“There are homeless people on Bainbridge Island,” said Bainbridge Police Lt. Sue Shultz. “We have several individuals we have identified as homeless.”

Murray Prins, supervisor of social work for Helpline House, said the number of homeless on Bainbridge is in the low 20s. Prins said many of those individuals counted in the homeless tally every year are liveaboard residents most of whom don’t have a consistent heating source.

Prins said the reason Bainbridge lacks a cold weather shelter is because there’s been no demand for one.

“There’s not a large contingent that comes in and says, ‘where can we go?’” Prins said.

For those who do need shelter from the cold and can’t get to Bremerton or Port Orchard, Prins said Helpline can get bus tokens for them.

Cathie Currie, spokeswoman for the city, said if a demand for shelters on the island becomes apparent, they would be opened.

She said the city could use volunteers from the Red Cross to help set up shelters, which would have amenities for overnight, or warming stations, which help people during the day.

Prins said the demand for a shelter on Bainbridge has been minimal because power has not been lost during this week’s cold snap.

Puget Sound Energy hasn’t reported any weather-related power outages this week.

But the cold weather is forcing residents to use more heat.

As a result of increased usage of wood burning devices in the area, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency issued a burn ban Wednesday morning, preventing the usage of any wood burning devices until conditions change (see sidebar for more information).

The ban is expected to be lifted Saturday when temperatures start to rise again, but that doesn’t mean Nelson, owner of Bainbridge Island Plumbing, will be any less busy.

“The worst is probably yet to come,” he said. “There’s so much frozen stuff they won’t know about until it thaws.”

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