Dan White was on his hands and knees, leaning into a small bedroom cupboard where a copper pipe had burst. He’s the owner of Portland Plumbing and has been fixing up to 10 pipes a day.
“It’s been a little crazy,” he said with a laugh.
White understands nobody wants to pay him for work they could have avoided with a little insulation. Still, they’re happy to see him.
“Anytime I come anywhere, I’m like the hero because I get to fix things,” he said. “Especially with freezing pipes when people have been without water for a couple of days. They’re really excited to see me.”
He tells people to insulate pipes and to open cupboards to let warm air in. But he also has a confession.
“We had a broken pipe at my house,” he said. “It was out in our outside faucet. My in-laws have an apartment in the basement, and I had to go up to their place and find the shutoff.”
The past week has been rough for people in Oregon and Southwest Washington. They’ve battled snow, downed trees and sheets of ice. As of Friday afternoon, more than a dozen people in Oregon have died in the storm, and falling trees have caused millions of dollars in damages.
Even people who haven’t been directly affected by the worst are feeling trapped and frustrated. Sophie Belvin answers phones for Pilot Plumbing and Drain in Portland.
“It’s been absolutely insane,” she said.
Belvin has been starting work at 7 a.m. and staying late, answering up to 170 calls a day.
“Ninety percent of our calls right now are all emergency calls, and they’re all related to burst pipes,” she said.
Along with plumbing nightmares, she’s been hearing about some tough situations too.
“We had someone call in today who said he’s been out of power for five days and he has no water,” she said. “So there’s a lot of frustration. But overall everyone is super polite.”
Belvin said Pilot Plumbing is booked into next week. Normally the small family company provides emergency help the same day.
She said even company managers, more experienced plumbers who’ve moved up the career ladder and into desk jobs, are out taking calls.
“They’ve been working until 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. at night trying to get as many calls as possible in. And mind you, they start their day at about 7 or 8 o’clock. So it’s been super long hours for them,” Belvin said.
The storm has been dangerous and frustrating for lots of people in many different walks of life.
Barb Walker runs her own cleaning service. She tried to drive to work early in the week and almost got stuck at the bottom of a hill.
“It kind of ruined my tires a little bit,” she said. “But I got out and stayed home for the next several days.”
As a private contractor, that’s tough.
“Economic insecurity has been on my mind quite a bit lately,” she said. “And the weather does affect me tremendously.”
She’s trying to make up for lost income by hustling and calling clients to see if they need extra work.
But amongst all the broken pipes, iced streets and downed trees, some people have managed to enjoy the snow — mostly kids who don’t have to worry about the destruction.
“Every morning my mum makes me hot chocolate,” Magnolia Hoffman, 8, said with a grin on Thursday morning. She’s spent the week playing with her brother, watching TV, reading and sledding.
Temperatures are expected to gradually increase over the next few days, ruining the sledding, but clearing the streets.