By Charlene Dean
Local residents armed themselves against chilly temperatures during the last few days.
A cold snap plummeted overnight lows into the teens, creating some problems for homeowners who woke up Sunday and Monday morning to frozen pipes.
John Adair of the National Weather Service in Las Vegas said this is the coldest it’s been here since January 2007, when falling temps matched but didn’t set any records.
He attributed the cold to a winter storm over the Pacific.
“Once that storm dropped in over most of the West, it left more room for cold air masses to settle in from Canada,” he said.
Adair said he thinks this is going to be the worst of the cold for the year.
“Usually, the coldest part of the year is the first two weeks of January. This should be it.”
He said a warming trend will stay over the area beginning tomorrow, bringing high temperatures in the upper 50s and low 60s through the weekend. Overnight lows will be 28 tomorrow morning and increasing to the low 30s by Sunday.
Still, some residents were caught off guard by the sudden drop in temperatures.
Desmoni Plumbing’s Marla Desmoni said she fielded about 60 calls from people who didn’t have water. She said frozen well pipes and indoor lines were the primary problems.
“Homes here are mostly plumbed through the overhead joists in the ceiling,” she said. “If those pipes aren’t insulated, they’re going to freeze when it gets cold like this.”
She said some were leaking water and causing plaster ceilings to come down as well.
Desmoni said she received a number of calls from senior citizens who were without water but concerned about the cost of repairing the problem.
“A lot of them are on fixed incomes and simply can’t afford it. We always work out something. No one should be without running water,” Desmoni said.
Mark Rogers of Jim’s Plumbing said he received a similar number of phone calls on Monday.
“The two things we saw most was frozen, split pipes, first of all, and water heaters.”
Rogers said if a water heater is new, the cold shouldn’t create any problems, but the extreme temps can cause a water heater 10 years or older to expand and contract.
“If there’s any wear on the inside of the water heater, it’s going to pick cold temperatures to leak,” he said.
Both plumbing companies advise turning off irrigation systems and unhooking the hoses, covering outdoor hose bibbs and using an electrical heat tape to cover any exposed water lines. A faucet left dripping can keep disaster at bay as well. “Moving water can freeze, but it’s more difficult,” said Rogers.
Besides plumbing problems, hazards created by space heaters often contribute to cold-weather headaches.
Pahrump Fire Chief Scott Lewis reported only one major problem attributed to the cold temperatures where space heaters overloaded a circuit breaker.
“It doesn’t matter if you have 200 amp service running into a house,” Lewis said. “Those space heaters are running off of 15 amps and those with high settings need more power to run,” he said.
Some space heaters will produce up to 1500 watts.
He said in the single incident the fire burned the breaker box leaving the home without power for two days until it could be repaired.
“If someone is using space heaters to keep warm, they should always be at least three feet from any combustible material like furniture, drapes and other things,” Lewis said. “Never leave them unattended. If you leave, turn them off and unplug them.”
He noted one of the biggest mistakes people can make is resetting a tripped breaker and continuing to use the space heaters. “It’s a safety mechanism to tell you you’re drawing too much power. Eventually that breaker is going to fail permanently and start a fire.”
Several groups of homeless people who migrate from the area on Dahlia Street behind China Wok and the groups living in the desert behind Smith’s Food & Drug and the Pahrump Nugget have been trying to stay warm as well. Unfortunately, fires built on private property have to be extinguished and Lewis said the groups typically put out the fires and move somewhere else.
The Salvation Army handed out blankets and what space heaters they had to residents looking to stay warm, spokesperson Breka Beighley said.
“It’s not only the homeless, it’s other people as well. They can’t afford to turn the heat up so they come looking for blankets, coats and other things,” she said.