Contractors were busy at work Monday, continuing repairs to schools, homes, businesses and state buildings damaged by burst water pipes from last weekend’s arctic air and record-breaking wind chills across the state.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services building at 200 Main St. in Lewiston was closed Monday morning due to water and electrical damage, according to a news release.

“A burst sprinkler pipe led to flooding in the building,” spokesperson Jackie Farwell said in the release. “Power and other services remain off as the damage is addressed. The building will reopen as soon as possible to ensure continued access to critical benefits and services.”

A request for a Sun Journal photographer to take photos of the work in progress was denied because “the building is not considered safe for that right now unfortunately,” Farwell said.

Water damage from a burst pipe at Maine Family Federal Credit Union at 555 Sabattus St. knocked out members’ access to home and mobile banking, and shared branching and ATMs. However, member funds are available via other ATM services.

“We understand this scenario is both concerning and inconvenient to all of our members and we apologize for the aggravation that this is undoubtedly causing,” CEO Dan Clarke said. “You depend on easy access to your credit union accounts and we are temporarily unable to provide that to you at this time.”


Hayley Pinard of Pinard Mechanical Services in Wales said it had between 40 and 50 calls over the weekend for no heat and frozen pipe emergencies.

“So for normally a normal weekend, we have one on-call technician, but we had five technicians out,” Pinard said. “We had to have more available because we knew that there was the cold snap coming.”

Auburn Fire Department fielded nearly 90 emergency responses Saturday and Sunday, 20 of which were water related. Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Fifield said that while responses proved difficult for crews working in extreme temperatures — some lows reaching minus 37 degrees factoring in the wind — mutual aid for fires in Lisbon and Minot were the most difficult.

An unidentified Servpro worker carries debris Monday from the Department of Health and Human Services building at 200 Main St. in Lewiston. The building was closed temporarily after water and electrical damage was discovered due to broken water pipes from last weekend’s arctic air and record-breaking wind chills. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

A cascade of water coming from the second floor on the Turner Street side of 2 Great Falls Plaza greeted Auburn emergency crews Saturday night. The burst pipe was isolated and the cleanup was turned over to the building’s owner and tenants, Fifield said. Crews also responded to two burst water pipes at Clover Manor Nursing Home on Minot Avenue and Schooner Estates on Stetson Road.

Lewiston Fire Department responded to 42 water emergencies, while the city’s Water and Sewer Division received 33. The division’s operations manager, Nathan Landry, said there are normally a few calls on a winter weekend, but crews responded to 33, 25 involving water meter replacements, over the weekend.

Broken water mains at Bartlett and Walnut streets and Wilson Street and East Avenue kept public works crews busy for nearly 12 hours starting around 11:30 a.m. Saturday.


“The extreme weather made it more intense coupled with the short amount of time to manage these repairs,” Angelynne Amores, director of marketing and communications for the city, said.

“Landry suggests residents should know where and how to shut off their main water supply before a pipe bursts,” she said.

Regional School Unit 4 moved Oak Hill High School classes to remote learning Monday due to water damage at the building in Wales caused by the cold. Prekindergarten classes at Libby Tozier Primary School in Litchfield were canceled Monday due to flooded classrooms. Superintendent Katy Grondin said high school students will continue remote learning Tuesday, but Litchfield prekindergarten students will return to school Tuesday.

Damon Mechanical Services’ Mike Brochu said the Auburn-based business deals with mainly commercial projects and repairs, but calls over the weekend were frequent enough to keep both on-call technicians busy with repairs. Since commercial buildings are typically better insulated than residential homes, low temperatures aren’t as much of a problem because systems are usually much better set up, he said.

“What have we learned?” Brochu said of the particularly frigid weekend. “Insulation insulation insulation! Build your building with the correct insulation because you’re going to always have problems with water pipes. It’s a never-ending story. Don’t put less than what is needed in a wall.”

National Weather Service forecaster Jerry Combs said that while last weekend had the feel of a historic cold snap, temperatures did not set any huge records in central and southern Maine that it tracks.

“Luckily this was short-lived,” Combs said. “You’d never even know it happened with how it feels outside today. We had widespread lows in the negative teens to the negative twenties, but then the double whammy was the gusty winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour and just how we had those really low wind chills on top of the already cold temperatures.”

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