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Crews from South Dakota work to thaw frozen Atwater tower

The contents of the water tower in Atwater froze after a string of days The contents of the water tower in Atwater froze after a string of days with sub-zero temperatures. Tribune photo by Bill Zimmer

ATWATER -- Crews from South Dakota were called in Wednesday night to thaw out Atwater's 100,000-gallon water tower.

Following several days of subzero temperatures this week, water in the tower had turned into an ice cube Wednesday, with a small pocket of air in the middle, said City Clerk Goldie Smith. If the problem had gone on much longer, the tower could have been structurally damaged.

"Kind of like a pop can in the deep freeze," he said.

The freeze-up was discovered Wednesday morning when residents were getting intermittent water pressure. Some weren't getting any water at all.

The sheet of ice formed during the cold night, when not much water was being pumped through the tower.

The town's public works crew was unable to fix the problem themselves and called in professionals who shot jets of hot steam into the tower Wednesday evening. The municipal system was working fine by Thursday morning.

The fix-up had a $3,500 price tag, Smith said.

While frigid temperatures continue, Smith said they hope to avoid a repeat of the situation by manually operating the pumps day and night to keep water moving in the tower.

The South Dakota company was reportedly headed for a northern Minnesota town to fix another frozen water tower. "We're not alone," Smith said.