Hundreds of shoppers were left out in the cold after burst pipes meant a busy shopping centre was one of scores of buildings hit by flooding.
The Newlands Centre in Kettering was closed until midday yesterday after two burst pipes caused a roof and sprinkler system to collapse, flooding parts of the centre with three feet of water.
Firefighters were called to more than 35 cold weather-related incidents across the county over the weekend as temperatures on Saturday plunged to minus 13 degrees Centigrade – the second coldest February morning in 95 years.
Newlands Centre operations manager Charmian Wright yesterday said: “It’s the Sunday before Valentine’s Day. With all the card and gift shops it’s usually quite busy. I’m very grateful the customers and tenants have been so patient.
“We were trying to get it open as quickly as possible. The staff have been fantastic.”
Water collected in the roof above a corridor between the Card Factory and the former Crazy Udder after two pipes burst. The ceiling of the former Crazy Udder, which is due to have a new tenant shortly, collapsed under the weight, taking the sprinkler system with it.
Water flooded out of the sprinkler system onto the empty unit’s new flooring and out into the mall.
Luckily the slope of the mall floor directed the water around and down the corridor under the burst pipes and out of an exit. About three feet of water collected in the corridor.
The whole mall, including shops with outside entrances such as Boots, was closed because the sprinkler system was breached.
Firefighters and about a dozen workmen spent four hours repairing the sprinkler system and clearing the water.
Shopper Lisa Merchant, of Geddington, said: “It happens. It’s just one of those things.”
Gladys Hughes, 90, of Kettering, said: “Everybody is surprised.”
Homes in Wellingborough, Kettering, Rushden, Corby, Cottingham, Polebrook and Glapthorn were among those flooded as the sub-zero temperatures caused freezing water to burst pipes.
Firefighters were called to 18 floodings, six central heating-related incidents, five fire alarms with mechanical defects triggered by the cold, two faulty sprinkler systems, two dogs trapped on ice and steam issuing from two car engines as a result of the cold.
One dog died after it ran onto a frozen lake at Skew Bridge near Rushden yesterday.
Two members of the water rescue team from Wellingborough entered the lake in an attempt to save the animal.
Paul Greenwood, group manager for the fire service, said: “The owner did the right thing calling the emergency services and staying on the bank.
“You should call 999 as soon as possible. We have qualified people to enter the water. The last thing we want to have to do is rescue members of the public as well as dogs.”
Father-of-two Philip Surridge, 42, of Corby, and his friend Paul Litchfield, 30, of Raunds, died four days before Christmas 2009 after they followed Mr Litchfield’s dog onto Brightwell Lakes in Great Addington.