Texas:Main breaks, spilling thousands of gallons

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Saturday, August 26, 2000

Last modified at 2:43 a.m. on Saturday, August 26, 2000 ) 2000 - The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Main breaks, spilling thousands of gallons of water onto streets

By AMBER IRLBECK and SVEND HOLST LubbockOnline.com

A water main break at the intersection of University Avenue and 19th Street snarled traffic Friday morning, and will likely cause continuing traffic problems at the well-traveled intersection into next week.

The break, first reported at about 7 a.m., sent an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 gallons of water into Lubbock streets, said James Fergerson, senior construction foreman for the city Water Department. He said it is unclear why this break took place, though it is not an unusual happening. The city averages between 360 and 400 water line breaks each year, he said, though they are usually in spots that do not affect traffic or more than a few people.

''We have several breaks a day,'' Fergerson said. ''It usually happens in alleys.''

Jose Moreno was on his way to class at Texas Tech University at about 8:10 a.m. when his car got stuck in the rush hour snarl at the waterlogged intersection.

''This is a real mess,'' Moreno said. ''I'm going to be late for class. It's definitely frustrating.''

Other motorists waiting to cross at the intersection were less frustrated. Enrique Trevino was on his way to work when his commute was stalled.

''I think they're trying their best,'' Trevino said, indicating the police officers directing traffic. ''There's not much you can do. I've already passed by once and I think they're doing a real good job of making traffic flow.''

Once the 10-inch, cast iron pipe is repaired, Fergerson said, it could take until Tuesday to for city crews to patch the hole in the street. Until the work is done, the southwest corner of the intersection, a heavily traveled section of road abutting Texas Tech, will be without a turning lane. Traffic at the corner will be squeezed into one lane, Fergerson said.

Several homes, an apartment complex and the Hawthorn Suites hotel all lost most or all water pressure Friday morning.

Most of the 75 guests staying at the Hawthorn went without morning showers, said Sue Brooks, assistant manager at the 82-room hotel. Some customers were upset and wanted their money back. Others took a creative approach to the problem.

''They just went out to the Jacuzzi,'' she said.

There are some 1,200 miles of water line in Lubbock, Fergerson said. With that much pipe, leaks are bound to happen, he said. ''They're all constantly under pressure,'' he said. ''They break from time to time.''

The loss of 400,000 gallons of water isn't all that much, he said, in the grand scheme of things. Lubbock uses, on average, about 38 million gallons of water each day.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 26, 2000

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