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Extra spaces open at shelters ahead of freezing temperatures; heat pump users warned of pipe bursts


An extreme cold warning has been issued across the region, with some saying the arctic air could break record-low temperatures in the Maritimes.

The approaching weather has outreach workers working overtime to get as many people as possible off the streets.

The Sackville Warming Centre in Lower Sackville, N.S., is adding 10 more beds to bring their overnight capacity to 30.

"If more show up, I’m not going to say we’re going to shut the door on them either. We’re trying to be accommodating to whomever shows up," said Jim Gunn, a Beacon House board member.

Nova Scotia's community services minister says the province has been planning all week for the dangerous temperatures.

"If someone wants a bed, I promise that they will have a bed," said Karla MacFarlane.

Shelter locations have been shared through social media, libraries, service providers and MLA offices in an effort to get the word out to as many people as possible.

"They will be opening tomorrow and they will be open until Sunday, but please keep in mind that we will certainly be assessing the situation of the weather, all the time," said MacFarlane.

Bus passes will also be issued to anyone who needs transportation to a shelter in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

"There’s going to be good food already prepared for them, the freezers are full. There’s volunteers ready to serve the meals from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the evening," said Gunn.

In Nova Scotia, shelters open when temperatures drop to -15C – a number that will easily be passed this weekend.

Temperatures are expected to be even colder in New Brunswick, with the windchill forecast expected to be in the -40C range.

Mickey Maguire, who lives in Moncton, N.B., has been waiting for permanent housing.

"I spend pretty much every winter outside usually," said Maguire.

He admits he's not prepared for this weekend's weather.

"I don’t even have shelter, a tent or anything set up," he said.

It's an issue outreach workers are hoping to avoid.


Experts are also warning homeowners who rely on heat pumps to take note as extreme temperatures settle in.

"They (heat pumps) typically don't have the same heating capacity when it's this cold," said Gloria Haydock with the Insurance Bureau of Canada. "It's really important to include an additional heating source, such as your furnace or electric baseboard heaters that you've got. Especially if you go to bed thinking everything is fine and you’re okay, and you wake up in the morning; the last thing you want is some frozen pipes.”

Plumbers around the region are already receiving a stream of frozen pipe calls.

James Pentz, the CEO of Halifax Plumbing and Heating, said he responded to 10 calls on Thursday morning alone. Pentz said it is critical for heat pump owners to have another source of heat during extreme cold.

“The ambient temperature in the room is not always the same on the exterior walls,” said Pentz. “It can cause freeze ups if you have your heat pump running in one room and the other side of the building is not getting adequate heat.”

Ken Bain, the parts manager with Mr. Plumber in Charlottetown, said most heat pump owners make the necessary adjustments for extreme cold.

"Because so many people are using heat pumps today, they have their boilers either turned off or down very low," said Bain. "It would be a good idea, because of the wind and cold temperatures, to have that boiler up and running."

Bain said homeowners should also try to locate drafts of cold air.

"I just had a cottage, or small home, freeze up last night because of drafts,” said Bain. “A gentleman called this morning and everything had frozen on him.”

There are several preventative steps homeowners can take to avoid frozen pipes.

"Throughout this time, run water through all plumbing fixtures regularly just to make sure that things are not freezing up," said Haydock.

Other preventative steps include:

  • raising the temperature in your home by a degree or two, particularly at night
  • unscrewing any hoses, turning off outdoor water supplies, draining those taps
  • leaving a heat source on and having somebody check on your home if away for an extended period Top Stories

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