Systems Fixed After Pipes Burst at Tahoe Casinos

Fire officials restored all the fire protection systems at four Lake Tahoe, Nev., casinos after sub-zero temperatures caused pipes to freeze and break at each of the high rises on Tahoe’s south shore and the bitter cold that has gripped the region for nearly a week was subsiding Tuesday as a warmer front moved in.

By afternoon, the record-setting cold that caused pipes to burst as far south as Las Vegas was making its way east. The record low of minus 24 along the Utah line in Ely on Monday had warmed to minus 8 early Tuesday and the single digits in Reno were forecast to approach 40 degrees on Wednesday.

The casinos on the California-Nevada border were cleaning up Tuesday after fire crews had to spend the night on site until the sprinklers and other emergency systems were verified to be operating safely. A record low of minus 11 degrees started the trouble Monday morning.

“It was a little crazy for us for a while, but it was pretty quiet overnight,” Tahoe Douglas fire marshal Eric Guevin told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “We’ve been able to get some heat in some of those questionable areas and all the fire protection systems are in place now.”

Guevin said a damage estimate wasn’t immediately available but he said the worst appeared to be at Harrah’s where broken pipes sent thousands of gallons into the main, 18-story tower and a high-roller gambling area. He wasn’t aware of any gamblers or gaming tables that were harmed but he said some slot machines in the high-roller area at Harrah’s apparently were damaged and patrons had to be evacuated from that area.

Two sprinkler heads also broke at Harvey’s casino, and another broken pipe sent water into the loading dock at the Horizon casino. At the MontBleu, an antifreeze system meant to prevent pipe breakage froze, he said.

Now, Guevin fears trouble is brewing in frozen pipes at homes that may be sitting vacant time of year around Lake Tahoe, where the temperature was forecast to warm to 5 degrees above zero by Tuesday afternoon.

“These pipes at the casinos are in well-heated, well-maintained buildings so the bigger concern for us are homeowners whose pipes are probably freezing solid in vacation homes,” Guevin said.

“As soon as it warms up, those are going to let go and we are going to be busy,” he said. So far, they’d only had a handful of such incidents, he said.

City officials in Reno who scrambled to find housing for hundreds of homeless in single-digit conditions the past few days welcomed significantly warmer weather Tuesday. In neighboring Sparks, the city council declared a limited state of emergency on Monday, mostly as a formality to free up money to repair a pair of 7-foot diameter sewer lines that broke in the cold late last week

Numerous pipes were reported to have broken from the cold over the weekend and Monday in Las Vegas, where Monday’s high of 38 degrees was the coldest on record for that date. But a rare freeze warning that had been in effect there most of the past four days expired on Tuesday as temperatures were warming as much as 15 degrees from the day before.

Northeast Nevada continued to be the coldest part of the region, where Elko has made it above freezing only three days over the past three weeks and the mercury plummeted below zero 15 nights since Christmas.