Deep freeze hits east

As cold temperatures continued to grip the east, some 250 people in Maryland displaced by Hurricane Isabel since September were still living in travel trailers or mobile homes.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | January 16, 2004



"People living in travel trailers or mobile homes are living there because no rental property was available."

—Cheryl Brekke


As the coldest temperatures in 30 years continued to grip the east, some 250 people in Maryland displaced by Hurricane Isabel since September were still living in travel trailers or mobile homes.

Travel trailers and mobile homes are especially vulnerable to freezing pipes, which could leave residents without running water.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was working with two interfaith recovery teams in that state to offer them suggestions on how to cope with the cold.

Both the Maryland Inter-faith Recovery Team-Western Shore and the Eastern Shore Inter-faith Recovery Team were helping get the word out on how to keep pipes from freezing.

"People living in travel trailers or mobile homes are living there because no rental property was available," explained Cheryl Brekke, a FEMA voluntary agency liaison.

Many eastern states woke up Friday to another day of bitter cold and blustery winds that made it feel as cold as 40 degrees below zero in some areas, making outdoor exposure deadly.

In the temperatures currently gripping the northeast, exposed skin can freeze in less than 30 minutes.

At least six deaths have been attributed to the recent cold snap, including a hiker found in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Temperatures there fell to minus 45 and the wind chill approached minus 100.

In Massachusetts, some school systems closed because of the cold, with public school officials expressing concern about children waiting outside for buses.

Many city officials were also concerned about homeless people. The New York City Department of Homeless Services was planning to bring homeless people in the city indoors, even against their will, if they were at risk of losing life or limb.

In New York City, the low reached 1 degree overnight, tying a record for the day set in 1893, according to the National Weather Service. The temperature was expected to rise to 18 Friday, but with a wind chill still well below zero.

Temperatures were expected to remain in the teens and the 20s through the weekend.

Through a public information campaign dubbed "Operation Deep Freeze," FEMA offered the following tips for travel trailer and mobile home dwellers:

Keep propane tanks filled. In some areas it's possible to get a large-size tank from a local propane dealer to keep from having to change or refill smaller tanks. Residents who choose to lease larger tanks are required to keep the smaller tanks provided by FEMA with the unit.

Leave water running in the kitchen to help prevent the pipes from freezing during the coldest hours.

Stock plenty of bottled water for drinking and to flush the toilet should water lines freeze.

Use plenty of water when flushing the toilet. Occasionally, use hot water to melt icy build-up.

Adding RV anti-freeze to the holding tank by pouring it into the toilet may also help. It is inexpensive and readily available many places, including Wal-mart and Kmart.

If there is a short run from the travel trailer to the septic system, leave the valves open and use lots of water when flushing to keep waste moving.

If water or sewer lines to the travel trailer are above ground, insulate them by laying straw or some other insulating material over lines. This could prevent them from freezing. Do not put straw under or around the travel trailer.

If the lines in the dwelling are freezing up it is the resident's responsibility to maintain these lines. Wrap them in some form of insulation and wrap them with heat tape to help prevent a freeze.

Do not use kerosene or electric heaters in the travel trailers; they are unsafe.

Do not use ovens or gas burner as additional heating sources; they are unsafe.

Have an alternate location to go to just in case during this freeze.


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