Frozen pipes cause damage at 4 Stateline casinos


By Kathryn Reed

After three days of record-breaking low temperatures, many pipes in the Lake Tahoe Basin had enough and started doing some breaking of their own.

The four major casinos in the Stateline casino corridor have all had burst pipes. The damage started Jan. 13 at Horizon when a pipe near the loading dock froze and broke.

Harrah’s, Harveys and MontBleu each had frozen pipe issues Monday. This has kept maintenance departments as well as Tahoe Douglas firefighters busy.

At Harrah’s Lake Tahoe at about 8am Jan. 14 a stand pipe that is a fire department connection broke on the 18th floor and flooded the tower with several thousands of gallons of water.

“It incapacitated the elevators for some time,” Tahoe Douglas Fire Marshal Eric Guevin told Lake Tahoe News.

Stateline casinos are mopping up after pipes burst from extreme cold. Photo/LTN file

Water went into the restaurants on the upper floors and down the elevator shafts. Most people chose to stay in their rooms.

Three hours later a sprinkler head froze and discharged in the high limit gaming area. Some of the high rollers had to be evacuated.

“The engineering department was quick to respond in all the issues and make it safe for everyone and minimize the water damage and get the fire system back online for the safety of patrons,” Guevin said.

The role of the fire department is to make sure the fire lines are working as soon as possible, help maintain the safety of everyone during the crisis, assist with evacuations and set up contingency plans in case there is a fire when the sprinkler system is inoperable.

The next pipe to go was at 11:30am at Harveys. A fire head discharged over an employee at a jewelry store. The gaming floor then began to flood.

At 3pm another head froze at Harveys; this time near the elevator lobby of the casino floor.

Harrah’s-Harveys spokesman John Packer was unavailable for comment.

“The cold definitely got inside the building and affected those pipes. Those systems have held up well over years, but this definitely challenged them,” Guevin said.

The record cold in South Lake Tahoe on Jan. 14 was minus 11 degrees. The previous record of minus 7 was set in 1997. (The National Weather Service in Reno predicts a warming trend – with the low on Jan. 15 forecast to be 5 degrees above zero, which would be 12 degrees off the record.)

At MontBleu on Monday afternoon a zone near the casino area by the front doors had frozen pipes.

“They were designed not to freeze,” Guevin said.

He expects crews will be working into Tuesday morning to get those systems working. In the meantime, a “fire watch is in place,” Guevin said.

Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course had issues on Monday, too. At 8am a frozen sprinkler head broke in the maintenance shop.

“The main significance of all of this is that it’s very cold and it affects the fire lines that are designed to save lives and property. This time they did discharge, but they are still important systems to have to save lives. That is undisputed,” Guevin said.









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Comments (9)
  1. tahoeadvocate says - Posted: January 14, 2013

    If the contractors built to code, who is at fault?

  2. epicskier says - Posted: January 14, 2013

    Dumb question but why was the 18th floor so cold that a fire hydrant would freeze?

  3. "HangsUpsFromWayBack" says - Posted: January 14, 2013

    Face it ,been damn cold..theres more few homes built to code but those outside walls with pipes still freeze.

    Went In blue on thursady to make play off bet,you had to have gloves,coat on in race book,went sat at bar with flames coming out the rocks,I mean it was FRIGGING COLD!

  4. Steve says - Posted: January 15, 2013

    Get ready for when the temps rise above freezing and everything starts to thaw… Very few worse sounds than running water in the middle of January in Tahoe.

  5. grannylou says - Posted: January 15, 2013

    Not just the casinos, but our home is totally flooded downstairs, all built to code. Just cold!!!

  6. Snowbum says - Posted: January 15, 2013

    I have no idea what others do, but one of the first things I did when I purchased my home (built 1972?, I purchased it in 1977), was to go under the house and completely insulate around the foundation, and cover the dirt with plastic. I closed off, partially, all vents. I did some other insulation. I keep the outdoor faucets covered with insulating ‘buckets’. It did not have any pipe problems in January 89 nor same in 92 (93?) when we had a very severe cold snap. So far, no problems…and I hope it stays that way. I do inspect all the plumbing under the house once a year.

  7. Irish Wahini says - Posted: January 15, 2013

    Question for SnowBum…. if you cover the dirt with plastic, and a line breaks and spills out water, it can’t seep into the dirt… so is that better or ??? Just asking, because a construction co put plastic in crawl space under my laundry room in October (still working on the house), but I thought I should pull the plastic out after. Please advise….

  8. grannylou says - Posted: January 18, 2013

    Not every house has a crawl space. What then?

  9. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: January 19, 2013

    Frozen pipes! My rental property has no crawl space a cement floor and built in 1949.During this last cold spell the drain for the shower froze up and I came up with the idea of pouring some rock salt in the drain followed by hot water and then plunging with a toilet plunger to stir things up. Took just a couple of minutes and it worked!
    For frozen lines coming into the house , call a plumber but be prepared for a large bill. If you have frozen pipes currently and a portable heater, put that within a safe distance of frozen pipes. Be aware though, possible fire danger. NEVER leave the house if you use a portable heater. You need to check on those things constantly.
    Come summer remove siding and put in new insulation around the pipes that freeze. Take Care, Old Long Skiis