Plumbing outfits in town have been working overtime to sort out the damage from this week's onslaught of cold weather.

John Latham has attended to the plumbing needs of hundreds of Ashland residents this week — and he is nowhere near the end.

Latham Plumbing, like all the other plumbing outfits in town, has been working overtime to sort out the damage from this week's onslaught of cold weather. Temperatures in the high teens wreaked havoc all over the valley.

"I'm still working. I have a bunch more work to do. Pipes are broken everywhere. I've been everywhere — must have been to a hundred houses, and there's more left to be done. Laundry rooms, garages, rooms over garages, crawlspaces — it's about attention to detail."

Being prepared means attending to the details, Latham said. "Disconnect your hoses. And turn of your irrigation. Put some insulation — Styrofoam, anything — around exposed pipes. Cover your crawlspaces. Put a space heater in the garage. If you have a room over the garage and you leave for the weekend — guess what, your pipes are frozen. People forget these things."

Latham stressed preparing homes for cold weather before leaving for vacation.

"A lot of problems could have been prevented by disconnecting hoses, covering vents," he said.

Ashland Fire & Rescue Division Chief Margueritte Hickman also made note of the importance of leaving heat on in buildings with water pipes. She said people often forget that indoor fire sprinkler system pipes are also at risk when temperatures drop.

"I don't know if the plumbers have a recommended minimum temperature (to keep in a building)," Hickman said. "But I'm hearing 55 degrees is used by some businesses as a minimum."

Ashland residents are learning fast that it pays to be prepared. Ashland Hardware's supply of cold-weather products is nearly depleted after a few short days.

"We're sold out of everything," employee Robert Baba said. "Heat lamps, heat tape, insulation — we're completely sold out."

Baba is in the same boat with many other Ashland residents.

"My pipe broke in two places," he said. "I'm on my third day without hot water."

After watching fellow Ashlanders spend hundreds of dollars on repairs, Baba agrees that preventative measures are cheaper.

"You're not just talking about money," he said. "There's also time and wasted water. You'll spend $20-$30 insulating your home with foam and heat tape. Compare that to hiring a plumber at $80 per hour, plus materials."

Baba worries for business owners, who may wake up one morning to a busted water main. "That's the worst that could happen. I've heard some horror stories, but I don't think anything too bad has happened yet. It's mainly little things."