Plumbers in the Tucson area are swamped, literally, with repair work on water pipes broken by the freezing weather.
"This is the worst I've ever seen it. The damage is astronomical," said Jeff Eppley, owner of Apperson Plumbing Service, a company in business since 1949. "We're dealing with all kinds of broken water pipes and frozen back-flow valves."
Eppley, one of four plumbers working with the company, said he went to about 30 sites for repair work Thursday, traveled to Nogales during the evening for more repairs and then returned to Tucson for yet more work Friday.
"I'm pretty exhausted at this point, but we've got to keep working to get everybody water," said Eppley, noting that his company has repair work scheduled through next Friday.
Jimmy Standley, business manager for Abacus Plumbing, said the company's five plumbers have responded to "stacks and stacks" of calls for help with broken pipes.
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"I probably turned away 120 calls (Thursday), and I didn't even attempt to count how many I turned away (Friday)," Standley said. "At this point, we're just trying to get people out of trouble and then go on to the next one."
Other companies were so busy with repair requests that they stopped answering calls.
"At this time, due to being overbooked, we are not taking any calls," said a voice-answering message at All Pro Rooter and Plumbing. "We are sorry for this inconvenience."
Eppley, of Apperson Plumbing, said repair costs run from about $200 to several thousand dollars, depending on the severity of pipe breaks.
He said homeowners insurance typically covers damage caused by leaks, but might not cover the full cost of plumbing repairs.
Customers are advised to check with their insurance companies for detailed information on coverage.
Plumbers said insulating pipes and keeping a low flow of water running during extreme cold weather could help avoid broken pipes.
One major intersection was closed for most of Friday morning.
A water-main break closed the intersection of Grant Road and Stone Avenue as Tucson Water workers repaired the line.
Sgt. Diana Lopez, a spokeswoman for Tucson Police Department, said the water in the roadway froze and caused a traffic hazard.
Tucson Water spokesman Fernando Molina said frozen pipes would continue to cause problems.
"As things begin to warm up and pipes begin to thaw out, we're expecting to see a lot more leaks on our distribution equipment as well as customers' pipes that have frozen over," he said.
Meanwhile, the Reid Park Zoo is expected to reopen today at 9 a.m. after closing Friday because of multiple broken water lines.
Because of the freezing conditions, zoo officials said the animals were allowed to choose whether to go outside - most opted to remain indoors.