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UCLA Becomes “Sink” for Massive Flooding After Water Main Break

Firefighters helped stranded drivers get out of their cars and urged people to avoid the debris-clouded water, even as UCLA students trudged through the knee-deep water on their soggy campus

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Up to 10 million gallons of water were lost when a 93-year-old main ruptured without warning, the LADWP said. The geyser caused flooding on Sunset Boulevard and the UCLA campus, including famed Pauley Pavilion, the John Wooden Center and two underground parking structures. Patrick Healy reports

    Crews were working through the night to repair a massive water main break that sent up to 10 million gallons of water gushing for nearly four hours onto Sunset Boulevard and the University of California, Los Angeles campus Tuesday afternoon.

    A 93-year-old, 30-inch diameter water main ruptured and blew open a 15-foot sinkhole about 3:30 p.m. in the 10600 block of West Sunset Boulevard, officials said. The cause of the break was being investigated.

    "Unfortunately, UCLA was the sink for this water source," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

    The gusher stranded cars, a bus and drivers in several feet of swiftly rising water and mud. While there were no injuries, a Los Angeles Fire Department swift-water team rescued five people who were stranded in the flooding, including one who was swept under his car.

    "They were able to keep his head above water and be able get him out," LA Fire Capt. Jaime Moore said.

    Officials said Sunset Boulevard near the campus would remain closed between Veteran and Beverly Glen all of Wednesday.

    "There's almost no chance that any portion of Sunset Boulevard around UCLA will be open," said Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, during an evening news conference Tuesday. "Do what you can to avoid it. Find some other route."

    93-Year-Old Water Main to Blame for UCLA Flooding

    [LA] 93-Year-Old Water Main to Blame for UCLA Flooding
    A ruptured 93-year-old water main in an aging LADWP infrastructure is to blame for severe flooding in Westwood, including the UCLA campus. Conan Nolan reports for the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 on Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

    Officials said 10 million gallons of water was lost in the gusher, equivalent to about 200,000 baths, according to the US Geological Survey. The utility serves more than 500 million gallons a day to its customers throughout LA.

    Water flow through the pipe when it was in proper working order was about 75,000 gallons per minute, LADWP officials said.

    The riveted-steel water main carries water to the area from the Upper Stone Canyon Reservoir.

    Getting the water shut off completely took approximately three and half hours.

    Busy UCLA Campus Flooded by Water Main Rupture

    [LA] Busy UCLA Campus Flooded by Water Main Rupture
    The UCLA campus was busy with students when it was flooded by gushing water from a nearby water main rupture. Gadi Schwartz from Westwood for the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 on Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

    "We were just scrambling, we were trying to get our crews here. It's not the easiest place to get to at rush hour," said Jim McDaniel, the senior assistant general manager for the LADWP's Water System.

    Most of the damages Tuesday occurred at UCLA.

    Two parking structures and two buildings were damaged, including UCLA's recently renovated Pauley Pavilion, the site for UCLA men's and women's basketball, volleyball and women's gymnastics. Water covered the basketball court. The John Wooden recreation center was also damaged.

    Hundreds of people were stranded Tuesday night, unable to access their cars trapped in the damaged parking structures. Firefighters searched 200 cars and deployed two swift water rescue teams looking for trapped motorists. Cars on the lower level of Parking Lot 7 were submerged in three-and-a-half feet of water.

    Flooding Shuts Down UCLA Parking Structure

    [LA] Flooding Shuts Down UCLA Parking Structure
    A UCLA parking structure was under nearly 4 feet of water after millions of gallons were spilled into the streets and the university’s campus when a water main ruptured. Jane Yamamoto reports from Westwood for the NBC4 News at 11 on Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

    Mud and water also covered the university's Drake Stadium -- a track-and-field facility -- along with the nearby intramural athletic field.

    UCLA officials were expected to assess the total damages after they finish pumping water out of the buildings, Block said.

    "We have a lot of damage assessment to do in the next couple of days but, we’ll do it and we're Bruins and we’ll get back on our feet," UCLA representative Tod Tamberg said.

    Even as firefighters urged people to stay away from the area on Tuesday, the spectacle drew students, attending fall orientation, to the water. Some skimboarded and swam in it. Two students sat in water up to their chests on a stairwell as if it was a hot tub.

    Structures, Fields Flooded on UCLA Campus

    [LA] Structures, Fields Flooded on UCLA Campus
    Several structures and athletic fields on the UCLA campus were damaged after a massive water main break. Jane Yamamoto reports from Westwood for the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 on Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

    Water cascaded down steps into an underground parking structure and pooled as high as five feet.

    Students trudged through knee-deep water as they walked across campus.

    Compilation: Flooding on UCLA Campus

    [LA] Compilation: Flooding on UCLA Campus
    Watch a compilation of images and interviews from the partly flooded UCLA campus after a water main break. The report aired on the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 on Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

    Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is out of state on vacation, said he was "closely monitoring the situation" and in contact with DWP, police and fire officials, along with UCLA, "to make sure we are leading a closely coordinated response."

    Water service was briefly interrupted for some residents near the break, but it was restored quickly, DWP officials said.

    The flood comes in the wake of a statewide ban on public water waste as California officials approved fines of up to $500 a day for violators earlier this month.

    Jane Yamamoto contributed to this report.