East Coast Deep Freeze Doesn’t Stop OTL Show Fountain

Posted in News -

It’s been a winter for the record books across America’s East Coast and Mid-Atlantic states. From Maine to the Carolinas communities are shoveling out from massive levels of snow and ice. But despite temperatures that neared a bone-chilling 17 degrees in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., OTL’s most recently completed show fountain at The Island in Pigeon Forge ran as scheduled.

“People may assume the sheer volume and velocity of water flowing in a 50,000-gallon fountain keep the water from freezing. But when temperatures near single digits, even playful waters can freeze, seemingly in mid-air,” says Hugh F. Hughes, president of Outside the Lines, one of the country’s leading design-build contractors for large commercial show fountains. “That’s why most large show fountains are designed with special weatherization requirements. The water can never drop below 41 degrees.”

So when the weather turns from chilly to downright freezing, a mechanized action plan goes into motion.

According to Hughes, OTL show fountains designed for cold regions include boilers and multiple heat exchangers. When turned on, the system channels calculated amounts of water through the boilers, heats it, and then recirculates the water throughout the fountain.

“We make the process a simple on/off switch for the owner, but the engineering behind the system is quite complex,” says Hughes.

Designers must evaluate multiple criteria including regional wind conditions, the fountain’s number and type of nozzles, the length of time water is suspended in the air, ambient temperatures, surface area of the water feature and the frequency of shows throughout the day. In addition, the design of the weatherization system must integrate perfectly with the intricate mechanics driving the fountain show itself.

“Assessing all this data and its ramifications on cold-weather show fountain performance takes skill and experience,” says Hughes. “Nothing warms our hearts more than seeing our fountain shows run on schedule, even if people have to depend on snow plows to reach them.”

Hughes says expert fountain design doesn’t guarantee fountain shows will never be interrupted by cold weather, since venue operators consider many factors such as wind-chill health advisories, travel alerts and consumer demand. But he does say as long as crowds are willing to bundle together and brave the elements, the fountains won’t disappoint.

“Show fountains are all about entertainment, and we abide by the entertainers’ creed of ‘the show must go on’,” Hughes says, “even if the stage is covered in snow.”

For more information, contact OTL at 714.637.4747 or visit otl.wpengine.com