Vancouver Islanders coping with frigid blast of arctic air

WatchThe coldest air mass to hit Vancouver Island in years is resulting in frozen ocean marinas and bursting household pipes. Dean Stoltz has more.
Photo credit: The Canadian Press

Many vehicles are still buried in snow after two storms hit parts of Vancouver Island last week, but now it’s the bone-crunching cold everyone is talking and worried about.

It is so cold that even ocean water in the Comox Marina is frozen

“I’m just checking to see if, in fact, the boat is still floating,” said Fred McLean at the Comox Marina Monday. “We’ve had some snow in the past obviously but we come down and clean it off and then it usually gets warm fairly quickly but I’ve never seen the marina frozen to this extent.”

The Island’s most vulnerable are finding the frigid temperatures hard to cope with.

Community groups and churches like St. George’s in Courtenay were feeding hot meals and drinks to dozens of street people Monday.

“We are supplying food to people who really need it and these people come and they’re really thankful so it’s worthwhile,” said Joan McGrath of St. Vincent de Paul Society that feeds people at St. George’s on Mondays.

Temperatures that remained well below freezing across Vancouver Island Monday are also causing major plumbing problems for some.

Frozen and burst pipes are keeping businesses like Citywide Plumbing in Langford hopping with calls coming in every 10 or 15 minutes.

“Oh, they’re just in sheer panic that there’s no water flowing hot or cold and I think they’re just happy that we’re answering the phone,” said Citywide’s Shawn Waters.

He says a few simple things can prevent big problems.

“Leaving a tap running, maybe in your bathtub, even just a trickle will help because moving water won’t freeze as fast,” said Waters. “Also leaving your cabinet doors open in your house where there are pipes under the counter or sink will help because the ambient inside air will help to keep the pipes warmer.”

Waters also suggests purchasing tap bib covers to put over outdoor faucets to protect them from the cold winds.

Mainroad North Island highway crews were out again Monday clearing roads and applying salt brine or sand to slippery sections.

“We’re putting out sand for traction because you get to a point where you have compact snow in some areas so we’re just keeping the traction maintained on that,” said Mainroad North Island Operations Manager Chris Cowley. “With the colder temperatures, we’re getting a rare taste of what the rest of Canada deals with.”

Private contractors were also busy clearing parking lots across Vancouver Island.

“Yeah, snow is like a bit of extra cash through the wintertime when we can’t dig holes and lay sod down or put retaining walls in so it’s an extra bonus,” said Jamie Rennison who owns Tippin Point Contracting in Merville.

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Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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