Frigid temperatures are not only hard on people, but on water pipes too. A new device is allowing Hennepin County to predict when there could be potential problems with frost underground.
Everywhere you look, folks are bundled up, trying to brave our tundra–like temps. But Friday's weather is nothing like it was in 2014, when the mercury dropped to -23 degrees the first week of January.
The arctic air caused frost to reach deep into the soil and freeze underground pipes.
"We had over 150 water services freeze up going into people's households. So no water," said Brooklyn Park Operations and Maintenance Director Dan Ruiz.
If frost gets deeper than 7 feet it could cause problems for pipes. Hennepin County recently installed sensors to detect frost depth in several cities in the northwest metro. They're called frost depth tubes. The device is filled with colored water and is installed 10 feet into the ground. There are six tubes in the county.
"We pull the tube out and however deep the water is frozen is how deep our frost is,"explained meteorologist Sarah Karel. "We come out every week, every single Monday morning," said Karel.
The sensors are placed under grass and under pavement. Frost is typically deeper under pavement because it doesn't have a blanket of snow to keep it warm. On Friday, the pavement tube measure frost down to two feet, four inches.
"If we see the frost depth at a real low level, early in the year, we know that we could be in for a long winter," said Ruiz.
And if officials do see frost levels approaching the critical mark of 7 to 8 feet, they can send out alerts.
"We're not anywhere near that yet, and we haven't been quite cold long enough to see issues yet," said Karel.
For more information, visit Brooklyn Park's website at http://www.brooklynpark.org/