Stores running out of pipe insulation - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Stores running out of pipe insulation

JANET McCONNAUGHEY
Associated Press
    
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - In New Orleans, where older houses were raised above the mucky soil to keep them cooler, pipe insulation and faucet covers have been hard to keep in stock.
    
Pipes usually run beneath raised homes, said Pete Graffeo Jr., of Pete's Plumbing and Heating on North Carrollton Ave.

"When the winds start to kick up, that wind chill factor is what really rips through the pipes," he said.
    
Harry's Ace Hardware on Magazine Street has sold thousands of feet of pipe insulation over the past several days, said manager Daniel Becker.
    
"We have had people come in and tell us, 'You are the last place that had this. I'm so glad you have it,'" he said.
    
He said sales are probably five to 10 times normal, adding, "It's really tough to estimate, because nobody buys this stuff down South unless they're preparing for freezes."
    
"The other thing that's been very popular has been heaters in every type of variety. Gas heaters you mount on the wall, electric space heaters - people are doing anything just to stay warm."
    
Graffeo, who has eight employees, said he has had a couple of calls from customers wanting their pipes insulated. More people, he said, probably hire day laborers who wait for work outside big-box hardware stores to install the insulation.
    
The extra-cold water also puts a strain on heaters, he said. "If a heater is on the verge of needing replacing or breaking, this cold water coming into them will do them in."
    
He said he's doubled up on orders of copper and plastic piping and all the fittings they'd need, ordering about 1,000 to 1,200 feet of copper pipe to be ready when pipes thaw out.
    
But he doesn't expect a repeat of the December 1989 freeze, which the National Weather Service describes as the 20th century's most significant cold spell in the Deep South. In New Orleans, it stayed at or below freezing for several days and dipped below 15 degrees. Parts of Lake Pontchartrain froze. "Over 100 fires resulted in the New Orleans area within a 24-hour period due to a loss of water pressure and improperly utilized heating sources," according to a National Weather Service summary.
    
It took weeks that year to get pipe for needed repairs.
    
"There's a lot more press and television and making people aware. So they're more apt to do something" ahead of time, Graffeo said.
    
There also are "a heck of a lot more plumbing companies than we used to," he added. "That spreads the work out a little thinner."

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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