Park City suffers massive waterworks break, sending water rushing onto Main Street (w/video)
A water main broke in Old Town on Thursday night, sending a torrent onto Main Street as emergency crews fought to stop the flow while the fast-moving water carried dirt, rocks and other debris onto the street with the late-night Main Street crowd watching the stunning scene with bewilderment.
The Park City Police Department said the break occurred on the 400 block of Park Avenue at 9:20 p.m. The water appeared to flow at a relatively low rate at an early point in the emergency response before it started to gush out and then quickly spread across Main Street. The water appeared to be approximately 5 inches deep as it moved outward covering a swath of Main Street. The water took traffic barricades, traffic cones and at least one trash can with it as it moved downhill. Firefighters followed the debris, catching it and moving it to safety in an effort to guard against the objects causing additional damage.
The Park City Police Department, the Park City Fire District and the municipal Public Utilities Department sent a large team to the scene. Some of the responders formed a sandbag chain, tossing them to one another as they placed them in front of several businesses. Others deployed a fire hose filled with water as a diversionary tool, directing some of the flood away from the buildings. The sandbags were put on both sides of Main Street, highlighting how far the water spread as it moved downhill from Park Avenue.
The Police Department closed much of Main Street to traffic. The emergency vehicles occupied positions uphill and downhill from the break. The section of street remained closed past midnight. Onlookers exited Main Street nightclubs to watch the water flow down the street, expressing amazement with what was unfolding on the shopping, dining and entertainment strip.
The Police Department in an online posting said emergency responders initially arrived to the report of a line break. But shortly after arriving, the “break erupted,” the police said, and the water flowed onto Trapper’s Way and then onto Main Street itself.
High-level City Hall staffers like Police Chief Wade Carpenter, emergency program manager Mike McComb and Public Utilities Director Clint McAffee were at the scene alongside the emergency responders and waterworks crews.
McAffee said the response was made more complicated as a result of roadwork at the location earlier in the day. He said road repairs unrelated to the waterworks system were underway in the hours before the break. The crew that repaired the road covered the valve that provides access to the underground waterworks infrastructure with asphalt with the intention of putting in an opening in the asphalt at the location within a few days, which is standard scheduling for that sort of work.
The asphalt layer hindered the ability of the waterworks crew to shut off the flow. With the water still rushing out, the workers used a jackhammer to pound through the asphalt to get to the tubular valve box several inches below the surface. The workers eventually reached the valve box, and the flow of water onto Main Street fell slowly before it was ultimately stopped.
McAffee said the roadwork likely damaged the valve, which, according to McAffee, was probably in poor condition beforehand based on the age of the infrastructure at that location. He described the incident as a “major break” and said it is one of the worst in his nearly 10 years with the municipal government. Officials did not immediately provide an estimate of the amount of water that was lost.
City Hall cleanup crews were on Main Street by 8 a.m. on Friday removing rocks, dirt and other debris. The repairs and cleanup are expected to be completed by the middle of the week. The cleanup crews used heavy machinery to remove rocks, dirt and mud deposited by the water. Workers manually swept sections of Main Street while a street sweeper slowly moved through the scene to remove the remaining dirt and dust.
Water service was briefly interrupted to two houses on Park Avenue while one Main Street building lost water service through at least midmorning on Friday.
The rushing water caused an inward collapse of a section of Park Avenue at the Trapper’s Way intersection, creating a sinkhole-like depression in the road. The depression was approximately 4 feet deep, up to 10 feet wide and stretched across the full width of Park Avenue.
The Public Utilities Department on Friday morning, meanwhile, responded to a second waterworks break in the same vicinity of the one Thursday night. McAffee said the problem occurred at 10:30 a.m. on Park Avenue, as the crews continued the cleanup from the night before. McAffee said the incident on Friday occurred when crews were preparing for repair work on the damaged valve that caused the problem on Thursday night. He explained the crew was isolating a valve to allow the repair work when the valve that was used for the isolation broke, resulting in another outflow of water.
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Somewhere about the 35-foot level of the Flagstaff Mine, and moments after he called his friends above for light, the old ladder Paul Parmalee was descending gave way with a crash, and he plunged into the darkness to his death.