Burst water pipes a taste of emergencies ahead when Calgary’s cold snap comes to an end

Click to play video 'Burst water pipes could become a bigger issue when Calgary’s cold snap comes to an end' Burst water pipes could become a bigger issue when Calgary’s cold snap comes to an end
WATCH: A burst pipe made a huge mess at a Calgary supermarket on Thursday with water pouring out the front door. Gil Tucker reports.

Firefighters were called to deal with a burst pipe at a Calgary supermarket on Thursday, the kind of call they’ll probably be handling frequently when the city’s cold snap comes to an end.

A pipe that’s part of the sprinkler system, housed in an outside wall, broke at around 10 a.m. at the Calgary Co-op in the Forest Lawn neighbourhood.

“There’s a pipe inside the wall, and it froze and broke, so that’s why [there is] all the water [that] they’re just cleaning up,” said Russ Willing, a heating contractor working for Co-op.
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“It’s quite a mess. Nothing got damaged food-wise or anything like that, it’s just all over the floor.”

READ MORE: ‘A pain in the butt’: Cold snap causes water main breaks around Calgary

Firefighters used large squeegees to push some of the ankle-deep water out of the store, with private cleanup specialists arriving to continue the job.

Fire crews have been busy dealing with pipe breaks all over Calgary during the city’s recent period of extremely low temperatures.

“What we’ve seen in the last several days is buildings with sprinkler lines that are frozen and then ruptured, causing water to leak all over the place and so we’ve had several calls today, and last night as well, with these types of issues,” the Calgary Fire Department’s Carol Henke said.

With temperatures set to rise over the coming days, the warmer conditions are expected to bring another set of problems.

“The ice [in pipes] will act as a block and then when the pipes warm up, because they’ve been expanded a little bit — because as water freezes it expands — it causes a crack in the pipe,” Henke said. “Once an ice plug melts, then we see a lot of leaking pipes when the weather’s warmer.”
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READ MORE: Frozen pipes? Don’t use a blowtorch

The cold weather also brings similar problems in private homes and there are steps people can take to prevent pipe breakages.

“If [people] have left for a period of time and decided to turn down the thermostat, then we see some of the plumbing lines freeze as well,” Henke said. “So we don’t recommend turning down the heat, especially when it’s so cold outside, because if there’s no regular water flow through those plumbing lines, then [they’re] prone to freezing.