Some people are returning to their lakeside cabins in South Dakota only to find a spring surprise of frozen pipes. Last fall, many of them shut off their water before leaving the state for warmer climates. But the long stretch of cold weather has taken a toll on cabins that have sat empty through the winter.
Snowbirds are making their spring migration back to Lake Poinsett. And some of the earliest birds are regretting having arrived in the midst of the cold weather they had hoped to avoid over the winter.
"Come back at the end of February and boy, it's just been the pits since. So, pretty glad that we weren't here the whole winter. The folks that have been have really had enough of it by this time," Lake Poinsett homeowner Bill Intermill said.
And it could be a harrowing homecoming for cabin owners who are still down south. Arlington-based Kingbrook Rural Water is peering deep below ground inside meter pits to check on cold-weather damage. Frozen pipes that burst could send water into the vacant homes.
"And depending on which component happens to break, it can leak anywhere from 5 to ten to 25-30-35 gallons a minute. And that's a lot of water in a hurry," Steve Norgaard of Kingbrook Rural Water said.
Kingbrook Rural Water has already found more than two-dozen homes with frozen pipes. Bill Intermill is glad his place isn't one of them.
"The concern, of course with everybody this year, is that frost line going so deep and dumping down in there and freezing things up," Intermill said.
The threat of frozen pipes won't go away even with a spring thaw.
"When you've got frost in some areas that's hard, frost in other areas that's close to it that's soft, the pipe is going to shift and it's going to start snapping the water mains. So we've got that to look forward to, too," Norgaard said.
Homeowners who've returned early to Poinsett are keeping an eye on their absent neighbor's property for any signs of pipe problems.
"You don't want to come home to a house full of water," Intermill said.
Kingbrook Rural Water wants homeowners about to return to Lake Poinsett to give them at least three-days notice for inspectors to check the pipes before the water gets turned back on.