Arctic freeze breaks records, ceilings, pipes


Courtesy / Sarah Picard

A burst pipe resulted in a collapsed ceiling in the Saint Benedict Court laundry facilities.

Kathryn Williams, Editor in Chief

A bitter freeze hit New England this past weekend, resulting in record low temperatures on the mountaintop and an array of building damages on the Hilltop.

A new record low windchill was recorded on Friday at Mount Washington. A whopping minus 108° F on Friday, Feb. 3 broke Mount Washington’s previous record of minus 102.7° F in 2004.

The dangerously low temperatures resulted in a series of unfortunate events in on-campus residence halls. “We responded to 10 calls this weekend regarding burst pipes, heat not working and other miscellaneous calls regarding the cold,” said Heather Arsenault, Administrative Assistant for Campus Safety and Security. 

Jon Woodcock, director of Physical Plant, stated that they received 35 calls from Friday to Saturday. “Starting Friday night we got calls about hot water and heating, or lack thereof. That continued through the night and then we started to get calls about frozen pipes and systems across campus,” he said.

A few of the most talked about damages took place at the Living Learning Commons and in the laundry facilities of Fr. Bernard Court (lowers). “The LLC vestibule has two sprinkler heads and a heater in it. The cold infiltrated the sprinkler system void and froze the first head, causing a leak, and then an hour later the second head went,” Woodcock explained. 

The damages in the LLC appear to be minimal at this time. “Mainly damages would be some ceiling tiles and paint in the lower level. We are using dehumidifiers and fans to help get the moisture out, especially for the rugs,” he continued.

The collapsed ceiling in the lowers laundry room was caused by a frozen hot water line in the attic space. “That’s going to be a bigger clean up and involve a remediation company because of the amount of water, the insulation and sheetrock damage,” said Woodcock. The laundry room is currently unavailable for students. Residents in that area have access to laundry units in the LLC until the damages are repaired. 

“We need to dry the space out first. We have Soil Away, our third party vendor, taking readings in affected areas each day. Once the humidity percentage goes down we can pull things apart and repair and replace,” he said. Since the ceiling did collapse on top of some of the laundry units, Physical Plant will have Automatic Laundry come in to inspect the machines.

Given the amount of moisture resulting from the leaks, it is especially important to dry out the spaces to prevent mold. Physical Plant will not be conducting mold tests unless they see a major issue. Previous testing has revealed that mold detected on campus is standard, common for households, and not concerning types of mold such as black mold.

The direction to securely close all windows during the severe cold weather was echoed by everyone from the Dean of Students to Residential Life. However, open windows still caused issues in multiple buildings during the freeze. “We had an issue in Dominic Hall where someone had opened up the window and we had a split pipe in the stairwell,” Woodcock explained.

Physical Plant continues to work diligently to monitor and repair the damages from last weekend. “We had temperatures that were far below anything we’ve had all season. Unfortunately temperatures like that will show us all of our deficiencies, and it certainly did this past weekend.”

On a more positive note, some Anselmians took advantage of the bitter cold to test out a popular science experiment! Multiple videos began to surface of people tossing hot water from a cup or pan into the air. The cold air combined with the hot water creates instant snow in midair. One such video came from C-Shop’s very own Terry Newcomb, which inspired others to join in the fun.