Sub-freezing temperatures place plenty of strain on water pipes. And inversely, so do sudden temperature surges immediately after.

Crews at the water utility that serves Toms River, South Toms River and Berkeley Township have been placed on 'round-the-clock standby for trouble.

United Water Toms River staffers warn home and business customers that the quick thaw has built-in hazards, especially for mains and smaller lines already prone to leaks or breakage. UWTR crews kept busy maintaining mains throughout the severe cold snap.

"Because water expands as it freezes, it potentially prevents water from flowing properly, resulting in cracks to the water line," said UWTR Director of Operations Jim Mastrokalos. "Even the slightest change in temperature can cause sizable ruptures."

How do you prevent it? The company suggests running cold water from taps occasionally, and opening kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to give pipes some warm-air exposure.

To protect plumbing apparatus and meters attached to exterior walls, or in basements or crawl spaces, wrap them in commercial insulation or heat tape.

And, if you're a late-flying snowbird, set the thermostat to at least a minimum heat setting before packing for the trip to warmer climes.