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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Frigid day blamed for 2 deaths, host of other problems”


    At least two people died, thousands of Tucsonans went without heat and scores of water pipes burst across the city on Thursday’s record cold day.

    A scattering of schools closed early or shipped students to nearby campuses because of a lack of water or heat. TUSD canceled classes today at several schools, while other districts like Vail and Sahuarita called off the school day altogether.

    It could take days for Southwest Gas customers to be back online, company officials warned.

    The record-breaking 18-degree low was one degree shy from becoming the coldest temperature in February in all of Tucson’s weather-keeping history. And for part of the day the wind made it feel like a frigid 5 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

    The bone-chilling temperature and the assortment of problems it precipitated prompted Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup to call the city’s day unprecedented. He call for a regional emergency and went on live TV to tell Tucsonans that city and county emergency employees were working “”as fast as they can”” fix the damage.

    Walkup said the city lacked the resources to respond instantly to the high number of people needing help to cope with the chilly conditions.

    Two emergency shelters opened at 5 p.m. equipped with cots, blankets, comfort kits, food and water, to help families and to try to prevent any more weather-related fatalities.

    The body of one woman believed to be in her late 30s was found in an alley near East Speedway and North Campbell Avenue, and Tucson fire officials said the death was likely related to the cold. In the second death believed to be weather-related, a woman’s body was found near East Grant and North Craycroft roads.

    At least one other person was found lying outside nearly frozen, Tucson Fire Capt. Tricia Tracy said.

    At least 2,000 residences and businesses throughout the city lost water service because of system problems at the utility, officials said. Many more lost water when frozen pipes erupted. Tucson Water said service was restored to about 750 as of Thursday night, but another 750 were still waiting.

    A water pipe at a main Metro Water location froze, leaving almost 30 residences and businesses without water on the northwest side, and about 200 more customers reported frozen or burst water pipes, according to Metro Water.

    Frozen pipes on the UA campus disrupted classes and work, and the freezing weather changed the usual campus attire from flip-flops and T-shirts to scarves and ski caps.

    At least one restaurant at the student union was closed because of a burst pipe, bathrooms didn’t work, and employees were allowed to work from home.

    The frigid day brought lines of customers to hardware stores.

    Eddie Lowry at Lowry Hardware, 975 W. Prince Road, said he had a crazy day coaching customers about frozen pipes and selling space heaters, pipe wrap, plumbing fittings and backflow preventers. “”I think half the town came in,”” he said.

    Some stores ran out of supplies.

    “”We are completely sold out of pipe wrap and heaters and everything to do with freezing,”” Sally Winek, inventory specialist at Desert Vista Ace Hardware, 7119 E. Tanque Verde Road, said Thursday afternoon.

    AAA Arizona saw a 20 percent increase in local calls on Thursday, mostly about dead car batteries, said spokeswoman Mary Pekas.

    She recommended that people check their charging systems and their antifreeze levels.

    Southern Arizona’s major military installations also felt the impact.

    At Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, several buildings were shut down for safety reasons after being flooded by frozen pipes.

    Base engineers were working to fix the damage and keep D-M’s fire-suppression systems in working order, said spokeswoman 2nd Lt. Sarah Godfrey.

    Things were much worse at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, about 75 miles southeast of Tucson, where the overnight low plunged to 3 degrees early Thursday and the daytime high reached only 25 degrees.

    About 40 building ceilings collapsed at the Army post because of burst water pipes. Officials announced late Thursday the fort would shut down today to all but emergency personnel in a bid to conserve enough gas to keep the barracks heated.

    “”It’s just bitter, bitter cold,”” spokeswoman Tanja Linton said.

    Fort Huachuca Accommodation Schools and child-development centers will be closed today, and the School Age Services Center will provide child care only for registered children of essential emergency workers.

    Elsewhere around Southern Arizona, many communities stayed at or below freezing all day Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

    In Douglas, the high was 26 degrees, after a low of 6. Nogales saw a high of 32 and a low of 11 and Safford had a high of 31 and a low of 4.


    –Expect overnight lows this morning to be in the teens again in Tucson, according to the National Weather Service.

    –It will begin to warm up today with highs in the 50s.

    –Overnight lows into Saturday morning will be in the mid-20s.

    –Highs Saturday and Sunday are expected to be in the mid-60s.

    Tucson’s 10 coldest February lows

    Rank Low Date

    1. 17° Feb. 7, 1899

    2. 18° Feb. 8, 1933

    2. 18° Feb. 3, 2011

    3. 19° Feb. 18, 1910

    3. 19° Feb. 17, 1910

    5. 20° Feb. 22, 1955

    5. 20° Feb. 21, 1955

    5. 20° Feb. 5, 1955

    5. 20° Feb. 12, 1948

    9. 21° Feb. 4, 1955 and three other dates.

    Tucson’s 10 coldest February highs

    Rank Low High Date

    1. 37° Feb. 6, 1899

    2. 40° Feb. 1, 1985

    3. 42° Feb. 2, 2011

    4. 43° Feb. 2, 1956

    5. 44° Feb. 15, 1990

    5. 44° Feb. 27, 1962

    5. 44° Feb. 19, 1955

    5. 44° Feb. 6, 1905

    5. 44° Feb. 3, 1903

    10. 45° Feb. 9, 1966, and on 6 other dates

    The coldest

    –All-time coldest temperature: 6° on Jan. 7, 1913

    –All-time coldest high temperature: 36° on Jan. 4, 1949

    Source: National Weather Service, Tucson Weather Forecast Office

    Should pipes freeze, here’s what to do

    Here are some tips from the city of Tucson for dealing with frozen water pipes:

    –There is no quick remedy; patience will be needed.

    –Any area that is exposed is the point where freezing is likely to take place; however, there may be more than one frozen spot.

    –Pipe(s) will need to gradually warm up; something that will blow warm air (such as a hair dryer) on the frozen section will begin the warming process.

    –Do not pour hot water over frozen pipe or initiate any action that would cause a rapid rise in temperature (the difference in degrees between that of the frozen pipe and the material used to try to thaw it).

    –Open-flame torches to thaw are NOT advised due to possible risk of fire.

    –If there is a burst or water is already leaking from plumbing, turn off the water at main supply valve to home or business.

    –If your backflow assembly is leaking, it probably has frozen. Contact your tester immediately for repair or replacement. If assembly has frozen, there is no repair; it must be replaced.

    –If you are trying to slowly thaw out your pipes, leave a faucet open inside the house to prevent a slug of water from going through and causing more damage.

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