Rhinelander homes struggle to rebound after bitter cold
A Northwoods community is struggling to recover from the last spell of bitter cold. Some homes in Rhinelander lost water because of frozen pipes. But some people there found help to get through the trouble.
In the eleven years the Ritchie family has lived in their Rhinelander home, they've never had a winter like this.
"We've never had this much trouble," said Winona Ritchie of Rhinelander.
The family went away, just for a night, last weekend. When they returned, they say they found frozen pipes and no water.
Ritchie says some of her neighbors had the same problem this winter.
"I called the sheriff department and they said, 'Well there's 30 people in front of you,'" said Ritchie.
In the meantime, the family had to find a way to get by. Another source for water wasn't far.
"We collected snow on our deck, then we melted it on our stovetop, and then we put it by the fire to help it melt," said Ritchie.
That took care of the toilets and dishes.
But for showers, the family headed to the YMCA, where they're members.
Leaders at the YMCA say many other families have been doing the same.
"This is definitely a first for us having to deal with a water crisis here in the winter," said Chris Cook, wellness and marketing director at the YMCA of the Northwoods.
So many people needed a place to shower, the YMCA discounted its day passes by more than half.
Normal day passes are $12.50 for adults. Now, the YMCA is charging $5.
"Specifically because some people, what they need is a shower and if they don't have any other place to do it and don't want to check into a hotel we're here to serve the community the best we can," said Cook.
The Ritchies say the local laundromat also helped them out by letting them fill up buckets of water for free.
After three days, city crews thawed the Ritchie's pipes.
Now, they can shower at home.
"You turn on the water pipe and you're like 'Oh, the sweet sound of water,'" said Ritchie.
That's something this family isn't taking for granted anymore.