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MailTribune.com
  • UCLA wades through damages from pipe flooding

  • LOS ANGELES — The quiet summer campus of UCLA found itself suddenly steeped in water and chaos after a major water pipe burst and spewed some eight million gallons, stranding people in parking garages and flooding the school's storied basketball court less than two years after a major renovation.
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  • LOS ANGELES — The quiet summer campus of UCLA found itself suddenly steeped in water and chaos after a major water pipe burst and spewed some eight million gallons, stranding people in parking garages and flooding the school's storied basketball court less than two years after a major renovation.
    The 30-inch, nearly century old pipe burst under nearby Sunset Boulevard on Tuesday afternoon, sending water 30 feet into the air, opening a 15-foot hole in the street and inundating part of the campus that was soon swarmed with police and firefighters.
    "Unfortunately UCLA was the sink for this water source," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said.
    The break came amid a historic drought when residents are now being threatened with $500 fines for overuse.
    "We lost a lot of water, around 35,000 gallons a minute, which is not ideal in the worst drought in the city's history," City Councilman Paul Koretz said.
    The flooding hit the part of campus that is home to its athletic facilities, with the greatest danger coming in a pair of parking structures that quickly began filling with water.
    Firefighters, some using inflatable boats, saved at least five people who were stranded in the structures where more than 100 cars were stuck, city fire officials said. No injuries were reported.
    Water cascaded to the entrance of Pauley Pavilion, considered one of college basketball's shrines since it was built in 1965, then poured on to the court named for legendary coach John Wooden and his wife Nell.
    The arena — where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Reggie Miller and Kevin Love starred — underwent a $132 million renovation that was completed in October 2012. At least an inch of water covered the floor Tuesday night, and its locker rooms were also flooded.
    "It's painful. It's painful," Block said. "We just refurbished Pauley just a few years ago. And it's a beautiful structure. It's of course, a symbolic structure for this entire campus."
    Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said the floor would be cleared of water overnight and the damage assessed today.
    The school may need to make contingency plans, but "luckily we're not in the middle of basketball season," Administrative Vice Chancellor Jack Powazek said.
    The other two campus buildings damaged were the Wooden Center, which has training facilities for students, and the J.D. Morgan Center, which houses the school's sports trophies, hall of fame and athletics offices.
    The 93-year-old high-pressure line of riveted steel pipe spewed a geyser of water for about 3 1/2; hours before it could be safely shut down without causing more damage, said Jim McDaniel of the Department of Water and Power.
    Crews struggled to get to the area at rush hour, and they had to research which valves to shut off without affecting service, McDaniel said. Some water service was briefly interrupted but quickly restored.
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