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Broken water main floods UCLA at 75,000 gallons per minute

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UCLA water main must still be drained before repairs begin, @LADWP officials say
UCLA campus to remain open after massive water main break

Crews have cleaned up the sludge and broken pavement around a burst water main that deluged UCLA on Tuesday but still have to drain the pipe so they can begin repairs, officials said.

A cause for the rupture had yet to be determined and it was unclear how long a stretch of the pipe would have to be replaced, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokesman Albert Rodriguez said Wednesday morning.

The rupture of the 90-year-old main sent a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air and deluged Sunset Boulevard and UCLA with 8 million to 10 million gallons of water before it was shut off more than three hours after the pipe burst, city officials said.

The water main ruptured shortly before 3:30 p.m. in the 10600 block of Sunset Boulevard, fire officials said, sending a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air. The main, which delivers 75,000 gallons a minute, was finally shut down about 7 p.m., officials said.

But by then, Sunset Boulevard and UCLA had been deluged. Sunset was closed in both directions from Marymount Place to Westwood Plaza, snarling traffic.

The rupture created a 15-foot wide sinkhole that the DWP would also have to repair after the main is fixed, Rodriguez said.

City and DWP officials planned to brief the media at a Wednesday morning news conference.

As of Wednesday morning, no DWP customers were without water, Rodriguez said. The campus was to remain open, university officials said.

Meanwhile, the water and mud left campus officials with a daunting cleanup task.

“Unfortunately, UCLA was the sink for this water source,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said Tuesday. Of the damage to the basketball court and other facilities at Pauley Pavilion, he said, “It’s painful.”

Thousands of gallons of water trapped five people in their cars as they tried to drive out of the flood zone, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Water was seen inside the J.D. Morgan Center, which houses athletic staff and administration offices, the George Kneller Academic Center, UCLA's Athletic Hall of Fame and the John Wooden Center.

At Pauley Pavilion, workers Tuesday night were using brooms, squeegees, vacuums and floor cleaners to remove the water. As that work was underway, sandbags sat stacked at the service entrance in an effort to hold back water still cascading down the stairs.

The length of time it took to shut off the water left DWP officials defending their response. Officials said crews worked as quickly as possible to shut down three large-diameter valves, but that they couldn't be closed too quickly because doing so could trigger additional ruptures in the web of water lines that feed the area.

Jim McDaniel, a DWP senior assistant general manager, said crews also had to battle rush-hour traffic to get to the scene on Sunset, a short distance from the UCLA campus.

Once there, he added, the crews had to figure out which valves needed to be closed.

The failure of the aging, steel-riveted water main was another black eye for the DWP. Five years ago, the city suffered a plague of 101 major breaks in the summer and fall, as water repeatedly burst through the aging network of corroded old cast-iron pipes.

The work at UCLA, meanwhile, was expected to complicate the morning rush-hour commute for scores of drivers.

“There's almost no chance that any portion of Sunset around UCLA will be open," Councilman Paul Koretz said at a news conference Tuesday night.

Los Angeles Fire Capt. Jaime Moore told KTLA on Wednesday morning that the road closure could last through Thursday.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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