Just about everyone on P.E.I. has been feeling the effects of the cold snap this week.
Plumbers and tow truck drivers were going non-stop on Thursday, school buses were late while Maritime Electric was preparing to fire up its on-Island generating plant to keep up with the electricity demand.
Strong winds and a wind chill of at least -35 combined to make life busy for a lot of people and a headache for the rest of us.
“We’ve been going full force all day with frozen pipes and no-heat calls,’’ said Hannah Duguay, service manager at Mr. Plumber. “And it’s from one end of the Island to the other.’’
Duguay did a quick count for The Guardian on the service calls and she stopped short of 20 by mid-afternoon. They’ve had to call in extra help to keep up with demand.
“We’re extremely busy. I came in at 7 o’clock this morning and this phone has not stopped all day.’’
Coopers Towing Service was busy on Wednesday and even busier Thursday morning.
Jason MacCallum said they boosted 20 vehicles and towed another 12 vehicles Thursday morning due to the extreme cold weather.
“The common problem is that no one changes their battery,’’ MacCallum said. “The weather has been too nice here. Everyone says ‘I’ll do it tomorrow, I’ll do it tomorrow’ and then, all of a sudden, it’s minus-40.’’
MacCallum says cold weather all but finishes off an already weak battery.
Schools across the province opened on schedule Thursday but some students were a little late getting there. The English Language School Board reported eight buses were late with some students climbing on the bus more than an hour later than usual.
And, the colder is gets the busier Maritime Electric becomes.
Kim Griffin, media spokeswoman with the utility, said the peak usage of power on Wednesday was higher than the peak in December — 240 megawatts vs. 229 megawatts.
“These cold temperatures are certainly driving our residential and our business customers to be using more electricity, there’s no doubt,’’ Griffin said.
The utility has been using wind energy as a backup.
Just to be on the safe side, Maritime Electric was considering firing up the plant on P.E.I., just in case.
“We’re watching our system all across P.E.I., minute by minute. Our team is meeting and looking at it and really trying to watch it carefully. Our job is to make sure the power stays on.’’
Griffin said they suspect the use of small block portable heaters and electric heat is driving up demand on the utility.
Duguay said Mr. Plumber recommends people not turn the heat down when they go to bed or leave the house for work and to leave a tap running (just a trickle) because flowing water doesn’t freeze. In the case of mini-homes, they suggest letting the water flow at both ends.
They also suggest leaving the kitchen cabinets open overnight to allow the heat from the house to get to the pipes.
How will you know you have a problem with frozen pipes?
“If you get out of bed and you are cold and you get in the shower and you’ve got no water, those are good indicators.’’