Even a minor amount of snow seems to manage to cause relative havoc in England. It came as no surprise, then, that the 8 inches of pretty, fluffy white stuff that fell on the capital today should cause some serious disruption. Several airport closures including, at one point, both runways at London’s Heathrow. London’s Stansted airport is a nightmare even when everything is working so it must have been particular fun today. Some poor folks apparently made it there on trains only to find themselves stranded when further train services were subsequently cancelled. Even central London’s buses stopped running.
We were nothing like as badly hit as London, having a mere inch or so of snow. Nonetheless something else more local also stopped running. In England we are given to a quaint old plumbing custom of siting huge cold water storage tanks (I’d guess 50 gallons or so) in the roofs of our houses. Such a system looks a little like a disaster waiting to happen but someone must have thought it was a good idea. The tanks are kept topped up via the mains water supply regulated by a ball valve which turns off the supply once the tank is full. Or so it should. Just in case the ball valve fails to stop the flow, there is an overflow pipe which spews any excess water out through the eaves of the house. Or so it should. This morning Carol spotted a 30cm dagger-like icicle hanging from our neighbour’s house’s overflow pipe. Clearly the overflow pipe had been overflowing and, equally clearly, it was now frozen solid. Presumably, whatever had been happening to cause the overflow in the first place was still happening. Because of the icicle plug, excess water was no longer running out. Our neighbour is currently on holiday in Spain.
Armed with our neighbour’s key and alarm code, a swift investigation of their loft revealed a dripping ball valve and a full, though not yet dangerously so, cold water storage tank. I wasn’t keen on setting about replacing the faulty ball valve but I thought I’d might try unblocking the overflow. I’ve got a handy-dandy electric paint stripper which should have no trouble melting the offending ice plug.
Clambering up a ladder in the snow is less than enjoyable but up I went with my heat gun. I snapped the icicle off first so it wouldn’t spear anything if it fell, then proceeded to warm up the ice plug. After about 10 minutes the overflow pipe was considerably warmer than I was and out shot the remaining ice plug along with a gush of water which must have been been backing up behind it. Excellent, disaster averted; the water could run again. Clambering back down a ladder after 10-minutes-worth of snow has fallen on the ladder’s treads is even less fun.
Maybe Carol should have played the heat gun on me to thaw me out.