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'Substantial' damage at UCLA, including arena, after water pipe break

By Jason Hanna, CNN
updated 9:32 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • UCLA says 960 vehicles stranded in underground parking garages
  • Authorities estimate 20 million gallons of water spilled
  • Several inches of water covered the court at Pauley Pavilion
  • California had just passed statewide watering restrictions due to drought

(CNN) -- A day after 20 million gallons of water gushed out of an old, broken water main, UCLA had quite a mess on its hands Wednesday -- and it still was trying to figure out how big.

Hundreds of vehicles were waterlogged and stranded. A famous basketball court might be ruined.

"We're nowhere near (figuring the cost) yet," UCLA Assistant Vice Chancellor Kelly Schmader said near the north side of campus, not far from where workers still were trying to stanch residual leaks in the damaged underground Los Angeles water pipe. "Some of the facilities that have water in them, we're not able to make damage assessments yet."

The juncture of a 93-year-old water pipe and a 58-year-old pipe burst under famed Sunset Boulevard on Tuesday afternoon, city officials said, with the ensuing geyser sending an estimated 20 million gallons of water shooting into the sky and streaming into nearby open areas and buildings -- notably parts of the UCLA campus just to the south.

A water main broke in Los Angeles, spreading ankle-deep water across sections of the UCLA campus Tuesday.
A water main broke in Los Angeles, spreading ankle-deep water across sections of the UCLA campus Tuesday.
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No one was injured, but damage to some campus parking garages and athletic facilities was "substantial," Schmader said.

Water rushed into two underground parking facilities, he said.

The school said Wednesday afternoon that 960 vehicles were still trapped inside.

Those vehicles that aren't trapped appear to have some level of water damage, Schmader said. Most of the autos belonged to UCLA students, faculty and staff members who were on campus for the end of the summer session.

"I went back to my car to try and leave, and they told me that I couldn't leave the structure because it was flooded," a woman told CNN affiliate KTLA. "And I walked to the side that was flooded, and I thought, 'So there goes my car.' "

Swift-water rescue crews with boats had to ferry away several stranded people Tuesday, and at least three motorists were rescued from the garages. A section of Sunset Boulevard remained closed Wednesday. City councilman Joe Buscaino said the goal was to have the road reopened by Friday.

Workers pumped and pushed water out of the damaged facilities.

At UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, the recently renovated home of the school's basketball, volleyball and gymnastics teams, 8 to 10 inches of water had collected on the Nell and John Wooden Court, the hoops surface named for the 10-time NCAA title-winning basketball coach and his wife.

Water covers volleyball courts

Video from KTLA showed workers using machines and squeegees to dry the court and push water out of the arena.

"The court is showing signs of buckling and expansion right now. Whether we'll be able to save that court, I don't know," Schmader said.

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said in a written statement that he was confident the arena and court will be ready by the time basketball season begins in late October.

The flooding comes just two years after UCLA completed a $136 million renovation of the arena.

The John Wooden recreation center and the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center were without power because their transformers, like the vehicles, were submerged in the parking garages, Schmader said. The J.D. Morgan Center, which houses the college's athletics hall of fame, also was waterlogged, with workers piling strips of wet carpet outside.

UCLA academic and residential halls were not affected, and classes continued Wednesday.

It's not clear what cause the burst. But it happened at a very bad time for the city and state.

Drought-stricken California recently passed statewide water restrictions, and Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January.

"Unfortunately, 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," Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz said. "So we ask everybody to try harder to conserve water."

Repair work on the pipe won't be completed Wednesday, but thanks to water rerouting, no one was out of water service because of the break, said Jeff Bray, superintendent of the city's Department of Water and Power.

About 1,000 gallons a minute were still leaking from the pipe Wednesday afternoon, said Jim McDaniel of that agency.

CNN's Sonya Hamasaki, Holly Yan, Steve Almasy and Stella Chan contributed to this report.

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