By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on January 24, 2024.
After Lethbridge experienced frigid temperatures last week and City staff had to deal with multiple issues because of the weather, Director of Infrastructure Services Joel Sanchez explained to reporters this week how the weather impacted that infrastructure and the steps the City took to remedy those issues.
While speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, Sanchez said the City had to deal with four watermain breaks during the cold snap, with most of them located in downtown. He explained that those pipes were between 60 to 100 years old which was a contributing factor.
“Typically, with cold weather the impact that we see is not only on the road but it’s under the surface, everything starts to freeze and with the freeze the ground basically just moves around and that’s what really caused issues with the water main breaks that we had,” said Sanchez.
He told reporters during the cold snap the Alberta Emergency Centre issued a water alert as well to make sure municipalities had contingency plans in place to provide water to residents affected by watermain breaks.
“We have contingency plans in place to have temporary water services available to those residents and that is still in place, and now we are in the review event where we analyze what we did and what can we do different for the next one,” said Sanchez.
He said now that warmer temperatures have arrived, whatever froze under ground during the cold snap is starting to thaw and that may cause problems which will eventually reach the surface.
“We’re going to most likely see an increase during this spring of potholes in the road and that’s what we’re trying to get ahead. Our departments are working with different technology that we can actually put in place in order to assess and try to get to those as soon as we can,” said Sanchez.
He said during the cold snap the City received more than 350 calls through 3-1-1 related to issues caused by the frigid temperatures.
Sanchez said other issues encountered by the City included the impact of the frigid temperatures on machinery, such as city buses needing to be boosted, and hydraulic systems used in collection trucks to be able to lift the various bins towards them to be emptied malfunctioning because of the extreme cold.
But not everything was negative or challenging. Sanchez also talked about how residents pulled together and helped the City during a very important event.
When talking about the electric grid emergency alert Alberta residents received during the cold snap, Sanchez said Lethbridge residents did their part in reducing consumption and wanted to thank everyone who helped the City avoid taking more drastic steps to reduce it.
“I can actually say that after that emergency alert residents did their job, we saw a reduction of close to six megawatts in the city consumption, and we were able to avoid going to the next steps which could mean power outages across the city,” said Sanchez.