More Than 30 Water Main Breaks Across Tulsa Have Crews Busy

Saturday, February 5th 2011, 10:55 am
By: News On 6

Lacie Lowry, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Tulsa is dealing with insult on top of injury. As if the weather and driving conditions weren't bad enough, more than 30 water mains broke across the city Saturday.

The messiest one happened near Utica Square, causing several sink holes. That water main broke around 9 a.m. near 21st and Xanthus, meaning St. John Hospital lost water for much of the day.

The 16-inch water main broke, buckled the concrete in several spots and crippled traffic on 21st street.

Finding the valve boxes to shut off the water was tough enough.

"The valves are all in the ground so we have to find the valve boxes, they're covered up by snow and we've got to dig them out. It's just a mess," said John Richardson, Tulsa Utilities Systems Operations Manager.

The biggest concern was the loss of water at St. John Medical Center. Crews isolated the leak by 3 p.m. and stabilized water pressure throughout the hospital.

Businesses trying to rebound after several days of closure sat helpless nearby.

"It kinda stinks because everyone has missed so many hours this week anyways, but we have no water," said Peppers Grill Asst. Manager Leslie Blackston.

The staff at Peppers Grill had a front row seat to the chaos.

"Can't wash dishes, the bathrooms won't work, we can't run tea or water or anything, so there's really no point in opening without all those necessities," Blackston said.

The city has had trouble with the Utica line before, because of the soil it's in.

"You've got shale and clay, the temperature will get down in that and move that ground and move that pipe and just shear it. It would have done it if it had been a brand new line, wouldn't have made any difference," Richardson said.

One mile away, News On 6 found another water break. Water was flowing down a hill and pooling near 22nd and Columbia.

This is one of two dozen water breaks across Tulsa, the aftermath of which makes for a dangerous drive.

"It will get very treacherous tonight once the water, once it gets real cold and the water freezes with not a lot of traffic on it," said Tulsa Police Officer Kurt Herman.

In ideal conditions, the city says it takes an hour an inch to repair a line, so you are looking at 16 hours for this break, but these are not ideal conditions.

As for St. John Medical Center, a spokeswoman says dialysis patients were relocated and new patients weren't admitted until the water was back on.