Winter cyclone brings sub-zero temperatures

by Gabriel Onate | 1/11/18 2:20am


In Hanover, temperatures reached a low of -24ºF on Jan. 1.

by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth

A wave of cold weather struck the East Coast last week, setting record low temperatures in New Hampshire and nearby states like Maine and Vermont. Despite this, Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said she did not believe that Hanover itself broke any previous low-temperature record.

The record low temperature for Hanover is -40 degrees Fahrenheit, which was set on Feb. 16, 1943. Temperatures over the past two weeks reached a low of -24 degrees Fahrenheit on Jan. 1.

Griffin said the sudden cold weather required immediate heavy maintenance of roads, pipes and structures. While this sort of maintenance is normally expected later in the winter, it was nothing that had not been handled before, she said.

“Our public works department has a very well-practiced protocol for managing the cold,” she said.

Some of the protocols include ensuring that streets and roads have enough salt on them, as well as clearing out snow buildup around storm drains in order to allow proper flow, Griffin said. She added that the town’s building and fire inspectors have been busy dealing with furnace breakdowns and frozen plumbing, both on and off the College’s campus, but that such activity was normal.

According to Griffin, the town is preparing for is the upcoming thawing of snow and ice caused by the sudden rising temperatures. She said that drastic changes in temperature lead to cracked pipes as hot water begins flowing through frozen pipes, which can cause the pipe to burst. She added that previously undetected cracked pipes could also burst now as water begins to flow through them again. The Hanover Fire Department is anticipating many calls from residents whose houses may flood from such broken plumbing, she said.

Todd French, maintenance services manager for Facilities Operations and Management, which is responsible for maintaining buildings on Dartmouth’s campus, said the cold spell that began on Dec. 28 made things difficult when it came to maintaining buildings because the lack of students and staff on campus meant few incident reports were filed. French added that this led to a number of problems, from leakages to frozen doors, from the moment students and staff returned for the winter term.

Robin Guay, facilities work process manager at FO&M, said another part of the issue is dealing with how students perceive temperature. Some view 65 degrees Fahrenheit as cold, she said, while others might view that temperature as hot. This can convince students that leaving a window open is not a terrible idea, she said, thus leading to the problems the College is facing with frozen pipes and flooding.

Griffin said she hopes students can be mindful about the weather and keep their windows closed to prevent snow from entering and prevent buildings from freezing. This also prevents pipes from bursting and avoids flooding, she said.

French added that one of the problems his team has been working to resolve was a burst sprinkler line that flooded several classrooms in the Tuck School of Business. He added that staff have been working tirelessly since Monday night and were able to get everything cleaned up in time for class on Wednesday morning. The tremendous planning that went into preparation for the cold weather, which began weeks in advance, led to orderly assignments and effective implementation, he said.

“I can’t praise the staff enough,” French added.

Situations as extreme as the one experienced by Tuck are extremely rare for the College, according to Guay. She added that it was an effect of the extremely cold weather.