Frozen pipes plague Toronto amid Canadian deep freeze

Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:58pm EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - The coldest February since 1934 has left thousands of Toronto homes without water since a cold snap started two weeks ago and residents in Canada's largest city have been urged to use hair dryers and warm towels to try to thaw frozen pipes.

While much of Canada is used to cold winters, weeks of extreme frigid temperatures in Toronto, one of the country's southernmost cities, has caused a rash of frozen water mains and the smaller pipes that run into individual homes.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city has received about 2,000 "no water" calls due to frozen pipes since the deep freeze hit the city Feb. 14. About 300 homes are without water and the number is growing as the frost line penetrates deeper in the ground, he said.

Other water main breaks have flooded the subway system, prompting concern about the city's aging infrastructure. To restore water flow, city workers have to dig up and thaw the pipes using machines.

"Toronto Water crews are working as hard as they can to respond to the large volume of calls ... (but) we need more resources to help customers understand what we are dealing with," Tory said on Wednesday.

In response to complaints that some households have been out of water for a week, Tory said the city will establish a "special SWAT team" to respond to frozen pipes.

Toronto temperatures have failed to rise above the freezing point so far in February, with the month's mean temperature at -12.4 degrees Celsius (9.7 degrees Fahrenheit) to date.

With no relief from freezing temperatures in sight, the city is on track to record the coldest February since 1934, according to the government weather service, Environment Canada.

"The three years that stood out to me (in comparison) are 1875, 1885 and 1934 - we're in the league of those years for the coldest February," said Environment Canada meteorologist Peter Kimbell.   Continued...

People walk along the shores of a lake during extreme cold temperatures in Toronto, February 16, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch