Bursting pipes new worry as Prairies emerge from wintry deep freeze

Extreme cold across the Prairies that forced people and even penguins inside over the holidays is loosening its bone-chilling grip.

Wind-chilled temperatures well into the -30s C saw the Calgary Zoo bring in the flightless birds, but the thermometer has been rapidly climbing into the single digits in Calgary and Edmonton.

Calgary could be looking at a high of 5 C by Friday,

It’s also getting closer to the seasonal average of about -11 C in parts of Saskatchewan after a week or more of below -30 C.

It’s gradually warming up in Manitoba, too, although temperatures in Winnipeg aren’t expected to rise above the -10 C mark until the weekend.

Environment Canada says an Arctic cold front is being replaced by milder air from the west.

“There’s some mild Pacific air that’s managed to work its way into Alberta and is being dragged east across the Prairies,” said meteorologist Brad Vrojik.

There are still likely to be some temperature differences between the western part of Saskatchewan compared with further east in the province and into Manitoba.

“You might see overnight lows closer to -25 C right near the (Manitoba border. Meanwhile, closer to Alberta you wind up with overnight lows closer to -10 C,” Vrojik said.

The sudden temperature change has led to dozens of calls about burst water pipes at homes and businesses.

Edmonton firefighters responded to dozens of burst pipes Monday night to Tuesday morning. The temperature rose to about -2 C by 4 a.m. — well above the bitter -20s of just 24 hours earlier.

“Burst lines all over town. As temperatures warmed up, the pipes are bursting,” Robert Bend, Edmonton’s fire rescue district chief, told Global News.

“Lines are already frozen and now we’re heating up, so we’ve been chasing all night the broken lines.”

The Calgary Fire Department said it also was dealing with issues connected to broken pipes and water mains. A coffee-roasting shop was closed Tuesday because of damage caused by a pipe that burst inside the business Monday night.

An eight-unit housing complex in the city’s southwest needed to be evacuated after the sprinkler system burst a line and flooded all four floors of the building. It could be at least three weeks before residents can return.

And the RCMP in Airdrie, just north of Calgary, reported that the front desk of the municipal policing building would be closed until further notice because of a water-main break.

“Definitely when we have an extreme cold for an extended period of time, we do see a lot of issues with frozen pipes,” Carol Henke, the fire department’s public information officer, told CTV.

“They don’t often make themselves known until the weather warms up, because the frozen water basically forms an ice block in the pipes, and then, when it thaws, that’s when it makes itself known that there is a water issue.”

Vrojik said warmer temperatures should stick around for a bit, although the forecast suggests it will be getting colder again later in the month.

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