Organizers try to keep their cool as heat wave looms over Winterlude,
NCC moves to keep its Winterlude ice sculptures cold
On Tuesday, ice carvers created giant sculptures in Confederation Park. On Wednesday, Ottawa temperatures were expected to hit 10 C. For the National Capital Commission, the most opportune moment for a mid-winter heat wave is not two days before the opening of Winterlude. But the NCC has a plan. Those giant sculptures, for example — one of a polar bear and the other a herd of muskox — have already been wrapped in thermal blankets to keep them cool, and covered with tarpaulins to ward off the expected rain.
The ice blocks that will be used for the international ice carving competition on Friday have been stashed on refrigerated trucks. The ice slides, for which the NCC made about 30,000 cubic metres of snow earlier this month, have a thick coating of ice already and will be worked on again when temperatures fall again on Thursday night.
The NCC has been through this type of thaw before.
Denise LeBlanc, an NCC spokesperson, said Tuesday that much of the work on the site was moved forward so that no people or vehicles would need to be in the park on Wednesday creating tracks that would freeze and rut.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” said LeBlanc, adding that the NCC would make sure that “everything is safe and as pretty as possible for visitors on Friday morning.
The story with the canal is less clear. The NCC announced that the skateway would be closed Tuesday night at 11 p.m. and warned skaters and pedestrians to stay off the ice, where recently fallen snow could obscure ice deterioration.
Jean Wolff, the NCC’s senior manager of communications, said a second reason for the closure was to give work crews the best chance to get the canal ready to reopen as quickly as possible after the warm-weather blip passes.
As is NCC policy, Wolff wouldn’t hazard a guess as to when the skateway might reopen. “We never speculate or offer a hypothesis on when the skateway will reopen. Public statements to that effect will mislead, both in producing a mistaken sense of security and in causing disappointment if people head to the skateway and find it closed.”
NCC standards demand an ice thickness of 30 centimetres. When the canal is open, an average of 17,000 skaters come daily.
“Which actually means that on weekends of good weather it is really 40-60,000 or more,” said Wolff. City road crews are also very busy trying to keep up with the fluctuating weather.
On Tuesday, salting trucks were on the road by noon in anticipation of the freezing rain.
On Wednesday, city crews will have to be on their toes because lots of snow combined with rising temperatures brings a new concern: flooding.
Kay Kinder, the manager of Francis Plumbing and Heating, gave these tips to homeowners who want to prepare for flooding: Clear basement floors of any valuables and ensure drains are clear of debris. If you have a sump pump, test it to make sure it’s working.
Kinder said homeowners should make sure their gutters are clear and their downspouts are pointing away from their house’s foundation.
In case of flooding, Kinder said, everyone should stock up on bottles of fresh water, or pots and Thermoses filled with clean tap water. “Sewer systems can flood, causing contamination of freshwater sources,” she said.
Alex S. Girard works on a snow sculpture of Samuel de Champlain in Jacques Cartier Park on Tuesday as Winterlude gets set to open on Friday afternoon.