The extreme cold weather that burst through the Tucson area last week left in its trail broken water pipes and gas outages, and forced many people out of their homes.

The first wave of trouble hit Thursday morning as people across the region woke to temperatures in the high teens and found household water lines frozen.

The problems escalated as main lines supplying customers also froze and in some cases burst.

Tucson Water officials reported that thousands of customers throughout its service area experienced loss of service after the cold caused several water mains to break.

Saletta said about 11 customers in the area reported complete outages or diminished water flow after a pump froze at a booster station in La Reserve.

Other problems Oro Valley customers experienced were the result of frozen or burst household pipes.

The severe cold later began to put strains on natural gas supplies.

Customers primarily on Tucson’s Northeast side and in Rita Ranch lost service beginning Thursday as gas usage increased along the line, which runs from Texas.

“It is anticipated that it may take several more days to restore service,” according to a statement late last week on the Southwest Gas website.

By Sunday, the company had re-established gas service for the majority of affected customers.

The extreme conditions also sent many scrambling to local hardware stores, desperately seeking solutions to the weather-related household problems.

“People have been coming in for solutions,” said John Piccoli, general manager of the Ace Hardware at First Avenue and Tangerine Road in Oro Valley. “They want help.”

Some of the biggest selling items have been pipe-wrapping products and space heaters.

“I’d say about 80 percent of it has been preventative,” Piccoli said

The store sold out of wrap-on pipe insulation by Wednesday morning, Piccoli said.

A company warehouse in Prescott has stepped up deliveries to the Oro Valley store to keep it supplied with high-demand products, Piccoli said.

Many residents in Marana’s Saguaro Ranch lost water service. The area, and many in Marana, receives water service from Tucson.

While individual houses may have experienced frozen pipes, water customers in Oro Valley were largely spared the service disruptions that plagued other areas.

“We only had one small area (of outage),” said Philip Saletta, Oro Valley Water Utility director.


Coldest February days in Tucson

Temperature     Date

17    Feb. 7, 1899

18    Feb. 3, 2011

18    Feb. 8, 1933

19     Feb. 18, 1910

19    Feb. 17, 1910

20     Feb. 22, 1955

20     Feb. 21, 1955

20     Feb. 5, 1955

20     Feb. 12, 1948

21     Feb. 4, 1955

Coldest temperature on record in Tucson:  6 degrees on Jan. 7, 1913.

Source: National Weather Service

Protect your pipes

Oro Valley Water Utility recommends that customers wrap water pipes with insulation, towels or blankets to prevent freezing in winter months.

If pipes do freeze, officials offer the following to tips restore water flow:

• Let the pipes thaw naturally.

• Thaw water pipes using a heat source, like a hair dryer. Use extreme caution when handling an electric hair dryer near water. Make sure no water is allowed to spray onto the hair dryer when it is in operation.

• Use caution when applying heat directly to frozen pipes. Your pipes may already be cracked or could crack due to the heat.

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