Toronto cold weather wreaks havoc on city infrastructure

Toronto's cold weather is wreaking havoc on the city's infrastructure, with several days in the deep freeze being blamed for burst pipes and transit delays.

Freezing temperatures breaks pipes, affecting TTC and city hall building

The city was facing a series of problems as a result of broken water mains and pipes on Tuesday. 3:08

Toronto's cold weather is wreaking havoc on the city's infrastructure, with several days in the deep freeze being blamed for burst pipes and transit delays.

The city has been under a cold-weather alert since Feb. 12 and temperatures aren't expected to rise any higher than –7 C until at least the weekend. 

Flooding from broken water pipes shut down city hall's east tower, city crews spent the day working on the 48 water mains that burst since Friday, and several subway stations were closed Tuesday morning after water flooded the platforms.

A cyclist makes their way through the cold weather last Friday. The cold over the long weekend caused damage and delays across Toronto on Tuesday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

"We generally don't experience problems with pipes freezing down below in the subway tunnels or down at track level," said TTC chief operating officer Gary Shortt. "It just doesn't get that cold down there. But we are experiencing it at this point."

Bathurst, St. Patrick and Dundas West stations were all closed this morning due to minor flooding, as was the Queen's Quay streetcar station.

Regular service has since resumed on the TTC, but the Scarborough RT was still shut down as of 10 p.m.. Forty-three riders were forced off the eastbound RT by fire officials this morning when a mechanical problem shut down the line. It wasn't clear if the problem was due to the cold, the TTC said. 

Deputy chief operating officer Mike Palmer said Tuesday evening that it still wasn't clear where the problem originated.

Palmer said safety is the most important issue.

"So the fact it's taken longer than I would have liked to fix this and make sure — I'm really sorry, but your safety is our first priority."

Hot water out at TCH building

At the Toronto Community Housing's building on Henry Lane Terrace, people were without heat and hot water for four days when boilers gave out Friday and Saturday. The CBC's Natalie Kalata reported late Tuesday afternoon that the hot water had been restored, but not the heat.
Flooding from broken water pipes shut down city hall's east tower (CBC)

The city hall flooding almost quashed the wedding of Salman and MehreenMomin, but city staff found an alternative space and the ceremony went on. They told CBC News they plan to take their honeymoon some place warm.

The cruel weather even affected the steamy crowd at a west-end theatre watching Fifty Shades of Grey, which was cancelled after frozen pipes burst and water leaked from the ceiling.

Toronto Water General Manager Lou Di Gironimo said frost penetrates deeper into the soil when the temperatures plunge below –20.

The city has received about 1,000 water-related calls during the cold snap.

However, Di Gironimo said the number of water main breaks this winter is about average — nothing compared to last year when the extreme and extended cold weather accounted for 1,600 water main breaks.

CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland said there will be a dusting of snow overnight and into Wednesday morning. The expected high is –7 C. 

Temperatures are expected to plummet again on Thursday, with a high of –15 C and a low of –21 C. 

To avoid frozen pipes, the City of Toronto suggests:

  • Leaving a tap slightly open for a very thin stream of water.
  • Insulating pipes that are outside or exposed to an uninsulated
  • wall with foam pipe covers.
  • Opening kitchen, bathroom and laundry cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • Turning off the main valve and opening the taps to drain water if leaving for a lengthy stretch.

To thaw frozen pipes, the City of Toronto suggests:

  • Turning on a tap in the basement, preferably the cold water faucet in the laundry room.
  • Using a blow dryer to warm the frozen pipe for one or two hours.
  • Wrapping a warm towel around a frozen pipe.
  • Patience — the thawing process could take up to six hours depending on the extent of freezing.

With files from The Canadian Press


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