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Homeowners grapple with burst pipes as cold wreaks havoc on Lower Mainland

Canadian Press

When Michelle Morisette and Tom Little left for a Christmas holiday in Mexico’s Puerto Vallarta, they thought they were escaping the problems of the ice, snow and cold.

But winter followed them when their son called Friday night to tell them their pipes had burst and water was pouring into the basement of their Vancouver home.

“We didn’t realize how cold it was in Vancouver,” Morisette said. “We knew the weather was bad and there’s been snow, but the last time we spoke to (our son), he had reassured us that everything was okay. So when we found out that the pipe burst, we were really shocked and very upset.”

The couple has lived in their home for around 40 years and say this is the first time anything like this has happened.

“It’s an old house, but it’s a sturdy old house,” Morisette said. “And our pipes have actually been pretty good because we wrapped them outside a long time ago.”

This week’s back-to-back winter storms in B.C. have caused more nightmares for home and business owners as they grapple with leaking pipes and scramble to book plumbing services over the holiday weekend.

On Side Restoration Services’ senior vice president of sales and operations, Doug Irwin, says over the last 24 hours, his company has received around 1,000 calls for home repairs from the Lower Mainland alone. That compares to a normal average of between 125 and 150 calls a day.

“A lot of us spent a good portion of the day where we thought we’d be preparing for Christmas tomorrow and instead we are trying to help out as best we can getting people back into their homes ready for Christmas themselves,” Irwin said.

While his company has seen busy days before in B.C., Irwin says the length of this cold spell has allowed more issues to pile up.

“That’s made things quite a bit worse,” he said. “Add in the volume (of snow), obviously, that has accumulated on the roofs and on the decks and around houses. And now, of course, the rain is coming in. It just couldn’t be worse.”

Many of the calls included roof collapses, leaks, and burst pipes, including in larger strata units.

Irwin says he “highly encourages” home and business owners to remove as much snow as they can from around their foundation and to get it off the roof and deck. Hoses should also be emptied and stored inside for the winter to avoid water freezing and expanding inside.

“What happens is when that rain comes down, it literally saturates the snow. And so you can get up to 10 times the weight of what the snow would be with the rain. And that in turn collapses things, unfortunately.”

The snow and freezing rain have also caused problems for BC Hydro across the South Coast. On Saturday morning, crews were working to get power restored for 17,000 customers. That number was reduced to just under 3,000 by early afternoon.

Irwin expects another three days of high call volumes as the snow and rain set in.

In the meantime, Morisette and Little are trying to enjoy the last few days of their vacation, while knowing they have a collapsed basement roof and a drenched carpet to return to.

Fortunately, the couple brought their home insurance policy number with them in case of an emergency, but say their provider told them they could still be in for a wait.

“I gathered that it’s a bit of a nightmare because everybody in Vancouver is trying to get restoration companies out, so he told us not to hold our breath in terms of getting any real action today.”

They say once they get back, they will look at whether they need to find another place to stay until the repairs are done.

“We are ecstatic to have a son who lives in Vancouver, who is super responsible. If we didn’t have that, I would be totally freaking out. I’m only semi-freaking out right now,” Morisette said. “But it’s not a great Christmas, let me put it that way.”

Source: Global News