A water main burst in downtown Los Angeles late Wednesday, sending water gushing down Sunset Boulevard and flooding at least one business.
It took the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power several hours to fully shut off the 24-inch main as water flooded portions of a shopping center at Sunset Boulevard and Beaudry Avenue. Some of the water collected in a Jack in the Box drive-through, transforming it into a stream. The business closed after water seeped into the dining area.
The break was first reported about 10:40 p.m. Crews had to shut off the pipe slowly to avoid creating a reverberation across the system that could cause further damage, DWP spokesman Jason Stinnett said.
“It can create a water hammer. We didn’t want to do that in the cold weather, which already stresses the pipe,” he said. “If you do that with these pipes it can rupture another main connected with the system.”
Dozens of customers were without water service for several hours overnight. As of 7 a.m. Thursday, 10 customers in the area still did not have water. Service was expected to be restored around 8 p.m.
Crews are continuing to repair damage to the street — which appeared to be buckling in some areas — from the break. One lane is open in each direction on Sunset Boulevard, but southbound Beaudry Avenue is closed. Commuters are encouraged to take alternate routes into downtown.
It is not clear what caused the water main to break, but cold weather could have played a role.
Stinnett said a drop in temperatures causes the pipes to contract and can make them more likely to rupture.
Though it’s not clear when the main was installed, the department has been grappling for years with crumbling infrastructure. Large sections of the water system are old and corroded, and the DWP faces a continuous challenge in trying to replace pipes before breaks occur.
Last month, a 96-year-old water main burst, flooding a South Los Angeles neighborhood and creating a void that submerged cars. About 30 adults and 20 children were displaced from their homes for more than a day as crews repaired damage from the break.
In 2014, the rupture of a 90-year-old main sent a 30-foot geyser into the air and inundated Sunset Boulevard and part of UCLA with up to 10 million gallons of water.
For years, the agency struggled to find funds to pay for the costly repair projects. In 2016, the City Council approved a water and power rate increase that is expected to provide more than $1 billion over five years, largely to be spent on system upgrades.
The DWP wrote in a 2017 report that more than 29% of the city’s pipes are more than 80 years old, and the average lifespan of an iron water main is 100 years. The department said at the time that “infrastructure reliability challenges are imminent.”
To that end, the agency’s plan is to invest more than $2.2 billion over a decade for infrastructure reliability projects. About $1 billion of that amount will go toward replacing main lines that have been identified as the most vulnerable, according to the report.