City warns of widespread problems with frozen pipes as frigid cold lingers

The city is urging residents to take steps to prevent pipes from freezing as cold weather continues to grip Toronto.

City received more than 200 calls from those with no water last week

An extreme cold alert issued by city staff on Friday remains in place this weekend. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

City staff have responded to more than 200 calls from residents who had no water during the bitter cold weather earlier this week and more than 90 per cent of the calls were due to frozen pipes.

Take steps to prevent pipes from freezing as the cold weather continues, the city urged residents in a news release on Saturday.

"Frozen water pipes can lead to significant property damage should they burst, resulting in no water for several days, depending on the severity of the repairs," the city said.

Before calling 311, residents can do the following if they have no water and they suspect their pipes are frozen:

  • Turn on a tap in the basement, preferably the cold water faucet in the laundry room. 
  • Use a blow dryer to warm the suspected frozen pipe for one to two hours. Check the blow dryer regularly to ensure it does not overheat.
  • Place a warm towel or rag around the suspected frozen pipe. 
  • Depending on the outside temperature and the extent of freezing within the pipe, the thawing process could take one to six hours. 

An extreme cold weather alert issued by city staff yesterday remained in place on Saturday. The mercury will fall to –12 C tonight, though it will feel more like –19, Environment Canada says. There's a chance of flurries, as well. 

Sunday's high is expected to be –8 C, with an overnight low of –15 C. Wind chill will make it feel closer to –18, however. 

Things are expected to get even colder by the middle of next week, Environment Canada says. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

As for preventing pipes from freezing in the first place, the city recommended that residents:

  • Leave a tap open enough for a pencil-thin stream of flowing water to ensure there is some movement of water in pipes that might freeze. You must leave this stream flowing 24 hours a day until daytime and nighttime temperatures have returned to seasonal for this time of year.
  • Raise the temperature in your home one or two degrees, especially at night. 
  • Leave kitchen, bathroom and laundry cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around plumbing. 
  • Outdoor faucets are the first to freeze. Unscrew hoses, turn off the outdoor water supply and let the taps drain. 
  • Insulate pipes most likely to freezing, especially near outside walls and in crawl spaces, the attic and garage. 
  • If your pipes are prone to freezing, call a plumber for advice on how best to protect your home. 

While it's a frigid weekend in Toronto, temperature are forecast to become even colder early next week.

Low pressure system coming from U.S. Monday night

A blast of cold air with northerly winds will follow a low pressure system, coming from the U.S. midwest, that is set to move into the Toronto area on Monday night into Tuesday.

Both days will likely see a high of around –6 C, but the overnight low on Tuesday will fall to –17 C. Wednesday's low is forecast to be –18 C. 

There is also a chance of snow every day next week, according to Environment Canada. 

"Bundle up when it's cold and take care in accumulating snow when you're travelling," says Desjanelle Matthews, severe weather meteorologist for Environment Canada.

"There might be a potential for extreme cold again mid-week."

With files from Muriel Draaisma


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