Record breaking temperatures create chaos

When the mercury dipped to nearly -30 Celsius last week Princeton residents experienced broken down furnaces and frozen pipes

Breaking news Princeton it was really, really, cold last week.

Local temperatures dipped to -29.7 Celsius during a five-day freezing spell that broke 90-year-old records for the third week in December.

According to Environment Canada it wasn’t the lowest the mercury has ever dipped here it fell to -34.6 Celsius and hovered there for several days around Christmas in 2008. However the unusual weather was enough to create problems, and even panic, for some Princeton families.

“It’s quite a thing when it gets this cold,” said Ty French, who owns and operates Princeton Heating and Cooling. “Pipes freeze and furnaces quit. People are scared. Definitely it turns into a nightmare.”

French has worked 22 in the heating industry and said: “this year has been one of the harshest.”

Even putting in 16-hour days “it’s frustrating because you can’t get to all the houses.”

French said in times of extreme cold he does not respond to calls on a first-come-first-serve basis, but rather triages emergencies.

“People who can’t get to their cars because they are sick or elderly, or single moms, they get the help first,” he said. “You can’t help everybody in one day.

People are fearful for their properties and health, he said. “You can see the look in peoples’ eyes. They are afraid. You walk into their houses and they are wearing their boots and coats.”

Extended cold spells bring on furnace issues, he added.

“Absolutely. They are running longer. As soon as it gets really cold that’s when the furnaces break down. They are like cars that hesitate in the morning.”

The unusually cold weather is suspected of contributing to at least three deaths in province over the past week two in the Cariboo Region and one in the Upper Fraser Valley.

A press release from the BC Coroners’ office urged people living in remote and rural areas to keep an eye on their neighbors, making sure they have shelter, warmth, water and food.

“If you know your neighbors are elderly, take time to give them a call or drop by, just to make sure they are coping,” said Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe.

The weather has cleared shelves in some retail stores.

“We have sold out of heaters and heat tapes,” said Susan Robinson, owner of Ace Hardware. “Our distributors have sold out of salt and so have we.”

It’s not just a human problem.

“Animal caregivers are experiencing similar challenges. Layer chickens have stopped laying and ducks are freezing their feet despite the best efforts of owners.”

Robinson predicted a further run on supplies as temperatures return to normal levels.

“Now the weather is predicted to warm up and snow is on the way, as these frozen systems warm up more damage will be evident and it will put stress and pressure on plumbing supplies. That’s okay, it’s why we are open seven days a week.”

Monday’s high was expected to be -4 Celsius, and temperatures should settle around the freezing mark until Christmas, according to Environment Canada.

The Old Farmers Almanac, 2016, predicted the Princeton area would experience extreme cold in the third week of the December.

The Almanac’s January forecast includes colder than normal temperatures, and snow showers.