The Gorham Times, Gorham, Maine's Community Newspaper

Staff Writer

The month of January was a challenge for many of us. A snowstorm that dumped as much as 18 inches on the ground, coupled with the bitter cold, left people worried about not only getting their fuel deliveries before they ran out, but also the potential damage from frozen pipes. Fuel companies were so overwhelmed with calls from people looking for deliveries that some were not able to respond either by phone or by e-mail.

Even those with automatic delivery were concerned, especially after not being able to reach their providers. For those who were not on automatic delivery, the possibility of not getting a delivery before they ran out loomed even larger.

One local fuel provider hired a security guard to supervise the numerous people who, unable to get through by phone or e-mail, ventured to the company’s headquarters wanting to talk to someone in person to determine when they might expect a delivery.

Fuel dealers undoubtedly did their best with at least one large company paying substantial bonuses to its drivers to work seven days a week until all of its customers had oil.

Compounding the problem is that propane tanks are the property of the company that originally provided them and have the name of the company on the tank. No company is supposed to put propane in another company’s tank, but in this emergency situation, this prohibition was set aside by some dealers.

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, recently sponsored a proposal that would change a current law to allow propane companies to fill tanks that do not belong to them without incurring liability during declared weather emergencies. Diamond said that during a prolonged cold spell, the measure would allow propane companies to step in for one another to ensure that no one suffers from the cold.

Both diesel and kerosene can be used in place of fuel oil though they are more expensive. Both can be purchased at area gas stations and other locations but require special cans.

In the end, it appears that everyone survived and eventually got oil. Perhaps in the future, it would make sense to realize how quickly the system can flounder in the face of bitter cold weather and plan to have a delivery earlier than normal, just in case.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Courtesy of the Red Cross

Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.

Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.

When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.

Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.

If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.