Hot water spewing out of water sprinklers. More water dripping from the roof.
Thanks to the Winter Storm of 2021, Glenn Powdrill can now say he has seen it all.
Powdrill’s company, GAP Plumbing, received almost 300 telephone calls from frantic customers in the days immediately after the storm, creating a logjam of work for Powdrill and his nine technicians.
“We just today finished responding to our final voice mails,” GAP Office Manager Jessica Owens told The Tribune last week. “We had so many service requests, and we’re still scheduled out for mid-next week.”
The customer calls were about what one would expect from a major two-day winter freeze – frozen pipes, no water and water “backflowing,” which means water was being contaminated as it flowed back into the house.
“Customers were surprised to see hot water flow out of their water sprinklers but that is because, during cold weather, the water in the ground is warmer,” Powdrill explained.
Powdrill is a master plumber and owner of GAP Plumbing, which he founded in Kingwood 35 years ago after a stint in the Navy, followed by working in commercial construction all over the United States.
The GAP team saw lots of fallen ceilings caused by broken pipes.
“One customer called to say she saw water running out of her roof,” he said. “That was caused by a busted pipe in the attic running water onto the roof.”
Powdrill said damage from a winter freeze isn’t quite the same as damage caused by a hurricane.
“Hurricanes don’t usually cause water pipe problems,” he said.
GAP Plumbing isn’t open on weekends, but this was an unusual time and the GAP crew worked 12-to-14-hour days and through the weekend getting their customers back on line.
“Most of the time, I am in the office handling paperwork but, when times get rough, I get in the van and climb up on those roofs,” Powdrill said.
Besides the broken pipes and spewing water, there were stories that touched the heart, too. Owens recalls one call from an older gentleman.
“He’d been without water for two weeks when he called us,” Owens said. “He mentioned that the pipe had burst in the room where he’d kept all the photos and memories of his wife who had recently passed. And they were all destroyed.”
“We moved him to the top of the list. Our other customers were very understanding,” Owens said. “When our guys arrived at his home, the customer had tears in his eyes.”
“I’ve lived in Kingwood for 20 years. These calls were from our Kingwood customers, our friends and neighbors who needed our help,” Powdrill explained to The Tribune. “In a storm like we just had, we prioritize people by their age and their need or if they have children.”
The Winter Storm of 2021 hasn’t yet acquired its own trendy name yet, but it has acquired some eye-popping statistics:
-Almost two consecutive days of below freezing temperatures.
-More than four million households with no power.
-Financial costs that the insurance industry spokespeople predict will cost Texans more than any other disaster in state history.
-Disrupted or no water service for more than 12 million residents.
The last time Powdrill and Owens recall a winter freeze quite like this one was Christmas 1989 when the temperature dropped to 10 degrees at Bush Intercontinental Airport and stayed there for several days.
“I remember I ran out of parts,” Powdrill recalled. “That’s why I now stock a warehouse with all the parts I would need for a disaster like this. This time, I had other plumbers calling me looking for parts. Fortunately, thanks to my warehouse, I didn’t have a problem taking care of our customers.”
Taking care of customers. That is the GAP Plumbing mantra.
With his warehouse almost out of stock thanks to the Winter Storm of 2021, Powdrill is stocking up again on all those items so essential to keep a plumbing company’s customers happy – and getting ready, God forbid, for the next stretch of bad weather.