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May 7, 2014
By Chinta Puxley
From Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg, Canada – The air conditioners are whirring in Winnipeg with temperatures recently soaring above 30 C, but below the ground it’s a different story.

Hundreds of residents still have frozen water pipes.snow and sun

Matthew Lawrence and his family lost water almost two months ago when their home’s pipes froze. They were still frozen late last week, even as the Manitoba capital was Canada’s hot spot at 32 C.

“It’s amazing. It feels like the tropics and we still have frozen water pipes,” Lawrence said. “To have it this hot and still be thinking there are frozen pipes underneath the ground is just kind of mind-boggling.”

Lawrence, his wife and three children have been relying on his neighbour, who has allowed them to tap into his water supply. But now, Lawrence said, his neighbour’s house is up for sale and it’s unclear how long that setup might last.

Other cities in Canada and the United States grappled with frozen water pipes during an exceptionally cold winter, but Winnipeg’s problem has dragged on the longest.

The city says there are still around 400 properties that have frozen pipes and many of them are relying on neighbours for water. That’s down from around 1,200 properties in March.

Randy Hull, emergency co-ordinator for the city, said there are new reports of frozen pipes still coming in.

Even with summer-like temperatures, Hull explained, the thaw hasn’t reached the frost that penetrated deep into the ground.

“With the really cold winter, the frost was pushed down to record levels in the last 130 years. We’re talking eight to nine feet,” Hull said. “Frost doesn’t come out of the ground. The thaw has to go through the soil and thaw all the frost, all the way down to eight feet.”

Hundreds of homes are still at risk and have been told to keep water flowing through taps. But with the temperature soaring outside, people are getting more complacent, Hull said.

“People are looking out the window and thinking, ‘Heavens, there can’t be an issue with this anymore’ and they’re turning the tap off. We still really need those at-risk properties to continue running their taps, as they’ve been asked to, until they’re told by us — the city — to stop doing so.”

Hull said crews are working flat out to thaw pipes manually using specialized equipment. They’re covering up to 25 properties a day but are likely to be dealing with frozen pipes until well into June.

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