An approximately 93-year-old underground water main broke in Westwood Tuesday afternoon, sending water flooding into streets and onto the UCLA campus, stranding people and vehicles and prompting the closure of Sunset Boulevard.
The main was shut down as of 8 p.m. after spewing water for over four hours, according to James McDaniel of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
McDaniels estimated that between eight and 10 million gallons of water was lost during the break.
He expected crews to be on the scene throughout the night and possibly into the morning.
The Los Angeles Fire Department was called to the incident shortly before 3:30 p.m., finding a towering geyser of water rising from Sunset Boulevard.
Three people were rescued from parking structures, the department’s Brian Humphrey told KTLA. Parking structures 4 and 7 were closed and people should not try to retrieve their cars, UCLA announced.
Five buildings on campus were severely impacted, including the basketball facility, Pauley Pavilion, and John Wooden Center. Drake Stadium was also flooded, video from the scene showed.
Campus officials were especially concerned about standing water on the floor of UCLA’s famed Pauley Pavilion as well as significant flooding in the locker rooms.
“The water will be removed from the floor tonight,” Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said in a statement. “We will then reassess the situation tomorrow morning and be able to provide additional information at the appropriate time.”
A geyser of water was shooting several dozen feet into the air from a hole in a roadway near the Spieker Aquatic Center, video from Sky5 showed. A main had broken in the center of Sunset Boulevard, LAFD Capt. Jaime Moore said.
“It’s like I’m at Niagara Falls on Sunset,” said one area resident who spoke to KTLA.
The address given for the flooding was 10630 W. Sunset Blvd., next to the UCLA campus (map).
Busy Sunset Boulevard was shut down between Hilgard and Veteran avenues, and the roadway was likely to remain closed for a while during dewatering, water main and road surface repairs, officials said.
“I’ve never seen a water main break this large,” Moore said. “I’ve never seen one with this much water, this much pressure and that much damage to a major street like this.”
It took utility crews several hours to shut off the flow of water.
Officials defended to time involved on the complexity of figuring out the right combination of vales to close. Closing the wrong valve could have ruptured additional lines or cut off the water supply to nearby residents, McDaniels said.
The cause of the break had not been determined.
The 30-inch pipeline handles 75,000 gallons per minute, DWP said.
While authorities were urging people to avoid the area and stay out of the water, the Fire Department was responding with four swift-water boats that could be deployed.
“We’re treating this the same as we would a flash flood,” Moore said. “Everybody is safe as long as they stay away from this water.”
Moore urged people to stay away from the water because of slippery conditions, fast-running water, and debris.
Nonetheless, aerial video showed dozens of people walking through giant brown pools of water across the campus.
“People are standing in the water almost out of a sense of amusement,” Humphrey told KTLA. “It doesn’t take much more than an ankle depth of water to sweep somebody into harm’s way, so we’re hoping to get UCLA campus officials to move people here away … from this very dramatic cascade of water.”
Water was seen inside the J.D. Morgan Center, which houses athletic staff and administration offices, the George Kneller Academic Center, UCLA’s Athletic Hall of Fame, and the John Wooden Center, according to the university.
Despite the flooding, the campus will remain open and classes will be held on Wednesday, according to a statement from UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.
The only exceptions were UCLA summer camps and the Fernald and Krieger child care centers would be closed, the statement read.
Traffic was jammed in the area, the Los Angeles Police Department stated in an advisory.
The flooding came amid statewide calls to conserve water during a historic and extreme drought.
The state water board recently passed emergency regulations allowing local agencies to issue citations — with fines of up to $500 — for failing to comply with water use restrictions, including waste of water on hard surfaces.