With recent subzero temperatures, people are finding that pipes have frozen as well as water meters, a Leavenworth Water Department spokeswoman said.

With recent subzero temperatures, people are finding that pipes have frozen as well as water meters, a Leavenworth Water Department spokeswoman said.

"It's that time of year," said Lesia Hegeman, Water Department interim general manager.

In some cases, pipes have frozen in vacant rental properties.

The owners of the properties may have turned off the heating in the units to save utility costs, but the water was not shut off and the pipes weren't drained of water.

Hegeman said the Water Department is trying to track down three owners of rental properties in the city where pipes burst last week after freezing. She said the property owners don't live in the city.

The Water Department also received calls last week from people who reported water leakages from the homes of neighbors who were out of town during the holidays.

Hegeman said temperatures may have been a little bit warmer when residents left for vacation, and they turned down their thermostats. But, temperatures dropped sharply while they were away and pipes froze.

"You can ruin a house pretty quickly with frozen pipes," she said.

She said additional broken pipes may be discovered after the pipes have had a chance to thaw.

Most houses have a stop and waste valve that can be used to shut off water if a residence will be empty for a period of time.

In addition to turning off the valve, a faucet in the lowest part of the house should be opened to drain the pipes, she said.

Hegeman said people who plan to be away for an extended period of time, such as two or three months, can be placed on "vacation status" with the Water Department. She said the Water Department will shut off the water to people's homes at the main and turn it on again when they return.

"It's no charge to the customer," she said.

A ruptured sprinkler head at Richard W. Warren Middle School also was blamed on freezing temperatures, said Jake Potter, a spokesman for the Leavenworth public schools.

The problem was discovered late Monday afternoon in the area of the school's main entryway. The ruptured sprinkler head triggered a fire alarm and a response by the Leavenworth Fire Department.

Potter said the extent of water damage caused by the ruptured sprinkler head still hasn't been determined.

"Everything was cleaned up in about an hour," he said.

There were no classes at the middle school Monday or Tuesday because of extremely low temperatures and wind chills.

Hegeman said the Water Department has had a lot of frozen meters in recent days, but the cold weather hasn't caused many main breaks.

She said snow on the ground helps keep water mains warm because it acts as a blanket.

Hegeman said ice can cause problems this time of year at the Water Department's north intake facility along the Missouri River.

"We're doing our best to keep everyone in water," she said.

She said the Water Department has a great team of employees.

"We have a 24-7 operation here," she said.