Ithaca, N.Y. — Sixty-four homes and businesses in Ithaca have been left without water this year because record-low temperatures led to frozen pipes, according to Erik Whitney, assistant superintendent for the Department of Public Works.

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That’s up from a yearly average of about “three or four” frozen pipes for the entire year, Whitney said.

The historical memory of the DPW goes back 30 years, and nobody in the department remembers a year before 2015 where more than six residents lost water due to frozen pipes, according to Whitney.

“This came as a surprise to a lot of people,” Whitney says.

Ithaca’s crews have cut the number of homes left without water from 64 to about 23, Whitney said in an interview Wednesday. “There was never a point when they were all out of water,” he says of the 64 figure.

Some residents have now gone several days without water, Whitney acknowledged. He added that crews are working around-the-clock to restore water to everyone’s home.

Wednesday brought a welcome warming. Only one person was added to DPW’s list today, the smallest increase in some time, according to Whitney.

The frozen pipes haven’t been a problem for just one neighborhood, according to Whitney. They’ve affected South Hill, East Hill, West Hill — “all over the city,” Whitney says.

Whitney said that next year, the city will send those who lost water this year a reminder to run their water when the temperatures dip below zero. That should help prevent or reduce the number of people whose pipes freeze — even if temperatures again sink low.

“We’ll just write a letter and send it out just to remind people when the temperature goes down run the water,” he said.

Vivian Zayas said she has not had water in her homes for four days. She said she was lucky that a friend has been bringing her buckets of water and neighbors have allowed her to wash dishes in their homes.

Still, Zayas said she’d been frustrated by her inability to learn when water might be restored to the home. “Put it on a website so you can see the houses affected and where you are on the list,” she said.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.