Water main break floods streets in Westwood near UCLA

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A water-main pipe that burst and flooded streets in Westwood and parts of the UCLA campus Tuesday afternoon was shut down shortly after 7 p.m., the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said.

The water-main burst was reported shortly before 3:30 p.m. at 10643 West Sunset Boulevard. The street was closed in both directions from Hilgard to Veteran avenues. DWP crews had to turn off slowly three large valves that feed into the water main to avoid damage to the system, said Michelle Vargas, a spokeswoman for DWP.

The 93-year-old ruptured pipe is about 30 inches in diameter and was pushing out about 75,000 gallons per minute at its peak Tuesday afternoon, DWP officials said. LADWP Senior Assistant General Manager Jim McDaniel said about 8-10 million gallons of water were lost during the entire incident. The water went into storm drains and onto a portion of the UCLA campus.

The Los Angeles Fire Department responded to the water-main break at 3:24 p.m. with 160 firefighters on scene. A swift-water rescue team and three battalion chiefs were also summoned. More than 200 vehicles in the area were searched, and five citizens were assisted, according to the LAFD. Several vehicles were stranded.

Los Angeles Police and Department of Transportation personnel also responded. Department of Water and Power crews arrived to shut down the high-pressure main.

Three different valves had to be shut down in a certain order at a certain rate to avoid pressure and potential breaks at other locations along the line, according to McDaniel. He said there was more than one water main along the route, and it had to be determined which one broke.

Repairs were expected to last through the night. Crews were still removing water from a large hole in the roadway Tuesday night. The hole stretched across most of Sunset Blvd.

McDaniel said the cause of the break was not yet known, but cited aging infrastructure. The large-diameter main is fed directly from the Stone Canyon Reservoir at the top of the Santa Monica Mountains. Brief residential water outages were reported at higher elevations, but service was later restored, McDaniel said.

Parts of the UCLA campus, including Drake Track and Field Stadium, Pauley Pavilion, the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center, J.D. Morgan Center, Acosta Center, John Wooden Center, the North Athletic Field, intramural field and Bruin Plaza were flooded.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said Pauley Pavilion, the Wooden Center and two parking structures sustained damage. Workers placed sandbags on the north side of Pauley Pavilion, which underwent a $133-million renovation in 2012. Parking structures 4 and 7 were closed due to flooding.

No one was injured, Block said.

UCLA Medical Center was not affected by the water-main break, as multiple water sources feed the hospital.

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz said drivers should avoid Sunset Boulevard in the UCLA area on Wednesday, as there was very little chance the roadway would be open by then. Traffic was detoured from the area during Tuesday's incident. Westbound drivers on Sunset Boulevard should go south on Beverly Glen Boulevard, turn west on Wilshire Boulevard and then turn back north on Veteran Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard. Eastbound drivers on Sunset Boulevard should head south on Veteran Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard, turn east on Wilshire Boulevard and then head north on Beverly Glen Boulevard. For those needing to get onto campus, take Westwood Boulevard. Olympic, Santa Monica, Highland and La Brea were other suggested alternate routes.

Those with cars parked at affected structures were asked to stay away from the area and fill out a form on the UCLA website.

The last major water-main break in the area was in Coldwater Canyon in September 2009, which caused about $8 million in damage.

LADWP serves approximately 500 million gallons of water to customers each day, the department said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti released a statement Tuesday night:

"With the water off, our focus is now on making sure we can get our infrastructure repaired and traffic moving as soon as possible... Sunset Boulevard near UCLA will remain closed tomorrow, so commuters should plan ahead and people should avoid the area unless absolutely necessary. Commuters should check online and consider Santa Monica and Olympic as alternates."

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