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The Big Thaw: Burst pipes, water damage wreak havoc on Maritime homes

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After one of the coldest days in years for most of the Maritimes, temperatures were up significantly Sunday.

Now, after the big chill came the big thaw -- and a flood of calls for local plumbers.

Trevor Wheatley started his work day early. He received 87 texts Saturday night and almost 50 phone calls Sunday morning. With frozen pipes now defrosting, many in the Halifax area and beyond are calling for help.

“I’ve got people from Windsor crying out because they can’t get anybody to service them and they’re willing to pay extra travel time and extra money,” said Wheatley.

It wasn’t just plumbers dealing with broken lines. The city’s water utility had to fix another broken main Sunday, after dealing with a number of them Saturday.

Fire crews were also run off their feet.

“It’s been a large volume of calls, probably four times what we would normally see during this time span,” said Chief Robert Hebb, District 3 Chief of Halifax Firefighters.

A representative of the firefighters union says it’s responded to 173 incidents between midnight and 2:30 a.m. Normally they see about a thousand a month.

Calls Sunday included fishing a vehicle out of the Bedford Basin after it slid down an icy boat launch. No one was hurt.

Hebb says many of the calls were about broken or leaking sprinkler and piping systems, along with some fires associated with heat sources to both residential and commercial properties.

“Today is pretty much a record day. We had well over 100 calls before 6:30 a.m. this morning. Most of those calls have involved sprinkler systems and alarm systems.”

It was also a busy day for power crews trying to reconnect more than 25,000 customers knocked off the grid. By 4:00 p.m. Sunday, the number was down to less than 3,800 across the Maritimes.

Frozen pipes are also an issue in the Moncton area, with water damage forcing two people from their apartments and the closure of Riverview Middle School on Monday and Tuesday.

A similar story in Charlottetown, where burst pipes forced two people out from a townhouse complex on Park Royal Court. The Red Cross also aided them with emergency lodging and meals.

“We’ve assisted more than 40 people over ten different communities. Several of those were house fires. Most of those were burst pipes and the resulting flooding.”

A short cold snap leaving a flood of clean-up work in its wake.

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