Cold snap brings plumbing issues to Las Vegas Valley

Las Vegas has been experiencing its coldest temperatures in more than five years. But the frigid temperatures have heated up business for local plumbing companies.

Mark Larkin, general manager of Larkin Plumbing, said technicians for the company responded to nothing but calls of frozen pipes and freeze-related problems on Monday.

"We went through about 200 pressure vacuum breakers yesterday," Larkin said. "Normally, we'll go through 30 in a whole year."

Pressure vacuum breakers are the small valves that prevent contaminated and hazardous water from entering the drinking water. When the small plastic piece inside the breaker freezes, it blocks the flow of water into the pipes. According to Larkin, a typical repair after a breaker freezes can typically run somewhere between $200 and $400.

While many homeowner's insurance policies cover broken pipes because freezing temperatures, often they will cover the costs only if it damages the house itself.

"The same thing happens every time it gets to these temperatures, and people just forget to wrap their pipes," said Victoria Graham of Done Right Plumbing. "I don't think people realize that we get this cold."

Larkin said his 26 company trucks have been running nearly nonstop during the hard freeze.

"We've seen some retirement centers shut down. Some businesses have had to close because they were not prepared," Larkin said.

Technicians have responded to ranches and animal shelters where freezing problems were preventing the animals from getting water, he said.

Ron Hanna, a technician with Done Right Plumbing said, "I've had to work on six different houses today. It's been really busy."

The Associated Press reported multiple casinos in Lake Tahoe had pipes burst on Monday, causing severe water and flood damage to the hotel and gambling areas.

Even local casinos weren't immune to the cold.

The fountain outside of Caesars Palace froze again on Tuesday for the second straight day, turning the famous fountains into a giant ice block.

The outer edges of the valley have been most affected by the hard freeze, with temperature dipping into the high teens at night in places.

According to John Adair of the National Weather Service, Monday's high of 38 degrees was a record low for a high temperature for that date. Temperatures are expected to warm up over the week, rising into the 50s by the end of the week. Overnight temperatures will still drop below freezing, however.

"We've recorded some of the lowest temperatures since 2007," Adair said.

While the chance of another hard freeze this year is low, he said it certainly isn't out of the question.

Larkin said that many of the problems that they encounter are somewhat preventable.

He recommended simply wrapping the pipes and the pressure vacuum breakers with towels when the temperatures drop into the mid- to low 20s. Wrapping them will provide just enough insulation to prevent any freezing complications, and a hefty plumbing bill.

David Bold of Done Right Plumbing said in addition to wrapping pipes, homeowners should put buckets next to faucets. He said that the problem doesn't have to resolved immediately and that homeowners can usually fix pressure valve breakers themselves.

"Get insulation for your pipes, they're very inexpensive," Bold said.

Las Vegas Fire and Rescue had not responded to any weather-related calls.

Reporter Khalil Johnson contributed to this report. Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at clochhead@review or 702-383-0391.