Winter storms are nothing new. They've been known to cause big problems in individual cities and even entire regions. However, the early January winter event impacted more than half of the U.S. It brought commerce to a crawl in many cities and states. Our trade at Roto-Rooter is plumbing and nobody in our company can remember anything like the Polar Vortex deep freeze on such a wide scale. Roto-Rooter has well over 6000 plumbers and service technicians between its company-owned locations and independent franchises and our manpower was simply not large enough to handle all of the incoming calls for service. A widely circulated newspaper article from the Associated Press appeared in Minneapolis, St. Paul and dozens of other cities around the nation. It pointed out that the extreme cold may have cost the economy about $5 Billion! the story featured quotes from Roto-Rooter of Minneapolis plumbing manager, Paul Teale. Teale said told the reporter that Roto-Rooter in Minneapolis and elsewhere had been inundated with calls about burst pipes and even frozen sewer lines.
Roto-Rooter locations from the Pacific Northwest to Georgia to Maine all experienced the same issues as the vortex swooped down into the lower 48. Though our staff worked around the clock, the number of customers needing our help outstripped our capacity...by a long shot. For the record, that has never happened to the largest plumbing repair and sewer & drain cleaning company. Ever. Was the storm good for business? Yes and no. Because the weather was so cold, our excavation work came to a standstill. Our high-pressure water jetters could not be used in such a cold environment because the water in them would simply freeze, creating more of a mess than most of the original problems we were trying to solve. But Roto-Rooter plumbers fixed thousands and thousands of frozen and damaged pipes and when the ice finally melted we had our busiest week since we can't remember when.
In the end, we're pretty sure we came to the rescue of more families that week than during any week in the history of our company. But we're bothered by the fact that thousands of others called us and we simply could not help them as quickly as they wanted us too. It took us days to reach all of them but many had given up on us and found other people to help them. This is shocking when you consider that Roto-Rooter's normal customer response time is two hours or less from the time they call. The entire polar vortex episode was so surreal that our collective heads are still spinning trying to figure out how we might've done better. Could we have found news ways to expedite the work and reach more of our customers? In all honesty, we probably could not have improved our processes by much. But some meteorologists have indicated that we may get another chance to find out. At least one report this morning predicts that the polar vortex may edge southward into the U.S. before the end of January and come back again. Are you ready, America? Check out these tips to prepare your home for the cold weather. It's good advice that may just save your pipes from another frozen catastrophe!
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