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Frigid weather wreaks havoc

The cold snap that’s been gripping Alberta for the past week is keeping the city’s utility department on its toes.

The cold snap that’s been gripping Alberta for the past week is keeping the city’s utility department on its toes.

With temperatures dipping well past -25 C without wind chill, and in some cases plunging down past -30 C, the city has responded to nine service requests this week alone for frozen water lines, meters and valves on private property.

Brian Brost, who is filling in as acting director of utilities as well as serving as manager of that department, said city crews have had to deal with one water main leak, which was caused by a corroded fitting that became dislodged. Although no single area of the city is hit harder by a cold snap than any other, Brost explained these kinds of calls are pretty typical when extreme weather descends.

“It depends upon the duration that we’ve experienced and how many days of this cold weather (we've had),” he said. “The longer the cold weather lasts, the more potential and frequency of these occurrences (happening).”

He explained most water main breaks happen when frost shifts within the ground, fracturing the main.

Mayor Cathy Heron voiced her support for city crews who had to venture out into the cold to respond to requests for service.

“These extreme weather situations are when our city needs them the most,” she said. “We have been dealing with snow and icy roads and water pipes bursting on and off public property. The crews have responded quickly and professionally, always with compassion. Thanks to the silent heroes.”

Les Mroz, the fire prevention and safety officer for St. Albert Fire Services, said the cold snap has been keeping the department busy because when a sprinkler system freezes, for example, an alarm is triggered.

“It's usually as simple as turning off the water to begin with and then trying to clean up,” Mroz added.

Meanwhile, the Alberta Motor Association issued a media release on Tuesday stating the extreme cold weather has resulted in a record number of calls for roadside assistance. Rural Alberta in particular has seen a big jump in the number of calls for dead batteries, although numbers for the St. Albert region were not immediately available.

While the utility department is responsible for ensuring water lines, meters and valves are working properly, property owners must ensure everything is protected and maintained from damage due to freezing.

The city has a few tips for preparing for the winter on its website. To report an issue regarding water services, residents can call 780-459-1557 between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. or if the matter is urgent and is after hours, call the city’s fire hall dispatch number at 780-458-2020.

Jeff Labine

About the Author: Jeff Labine

Jeff Labine joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2018. He writes about city hall and municipal issues. Follow him on Twitter @jefflabine.
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