Frozen pipes cause school closures in N.B. after record-breaking frigid weekend

The Maritimes saw extreme cold temperatures, with wind chill values ranging from -40 to -50 on Friday and Saturday.  (Graham Thompson/CBC - image credit)
The Maritimes saw extreme cold temperatures, with wind chill values ranging from -40 to -50 on Friday and Saturday. (Graham Thompson/CBC - image credit)

At least four schools were closed and one closed early Monday after record-setting freezing temperatures caused burst pipes all over New Brunswick.

Two schools in Saint John, one in Campbellton, and one in Moncton were closed Monday becasue of water issues, according to the school districts. In the Fredericton area, Hanwell Park Academy dismissed students early for the same reason.

Over Friday night and Saturday, wind chill values ranged from -40 to -50, according to Environment Canada.

Before the temperatures plummeted, social agencies worked to make sure there were places for who might otherwise be sleeping outside. Stone Church in Saint John expanded its hours to serve as a warming centre Friday and Saturday. Rev. Jasmine Chandra said the shelter helped keep nine people out of the cold.

"There was always at least one or two people that were there during all the hours that we were open," she told Information Morning Saint John.

She said one man said he spent one night in a parking garage, and volunteers also saw one person sleeping in a tent over the course of the weekend.

"There are gaps for people who have been banned for behavior issues from shelters. And I think a real issue connected to that is actually mental health and addiction services," she said. "Those two are often treated separately when really the two issues just can't be separated."

The extreme cold caused more than 29,000 N.B. Power customers lost power.

By Monday, about fewer than 100 customers were still waiting to be reconnected.

60 people displaced, Red Cross says

From Friday night to Sunday morning, the Canadian Red Cross said it helped more than 60 people who had been displaced.

People had to leave their homes because of fires, burst pipes, flooding and resulting safety issues that come with extreme cold weather, the Red Cross said.

Atlantic chapter spokesperson Dan Bedell said volunteers were helping people in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, as well as in Prince Edward Island, the Halifax area, Truro and other parts of Nova Scotia.

He said they were busiest in Saint John because five different building had pipes burst at the same time.

"A burst pipe in a wall or ceiling, especially if it's involving the sprinkler system, can cause widespread damage and real major safety concerns once water gets down into walls where there's electrical systems," Bedell told Information Morning Saint John. "So a lot of people ended up being evacuated out of buildings for water leaking in one part of the structure.

He said low temperatures also mean an increase in the number of fires. The Red Cross helped an Amherst couple who were using a blow torch to thaw frozen pipes, causing a house fire, he said.

"When we see severe cold weather, there's always an increased call for help because of house fires and in almost all cases, somehow or other, it relates to heat sources," he said.