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Water rushes into Oak Bay homes after water line break

Nov 21 2012
Christopher Olson cleans up the basement of his mothers house, as a section of Bowker Avenue in Oak Bay was flooded due to a broken water main line. 

Christopher Olson cleans up the basement of his mothers house, as a section of Bowker Avenue in Oak Bay was flooded due to a broken water main line.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , timescolonist.com

Displaced Oak Bay residents say firefighters and B.C. Hydro crews were not called in early enough Tuesday to help with massive flooding on Bowker Avenue after a water main burst.

About a dozen houses were evacuated and several suffered extensive damage from the sudden rush of water that filled basements with nearly a metre of water.

Public works crews were replacing a fire hydrant where the end of Bowker meets Eastdowne Road about 9 a.m. when a valve broke.
Water levels rose quickly covering the entire street. By noon, it reached the wheel wells of several cars parked by the curb and turned front lawns into urban swamps. Crews used sandbags to contain the rapidly moving water.

“My biggest concern has been the total lack of leadership initially around co-ordinating this,” said Cory Heavener, who came to help her mother and had not heard from officials until she called Oak Bay municipal hall.

“What about the safety of the residents? Should we be evacuating? Should we turn our electricity off? How serious is this? We knew nothing,” Heavener said.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen has called for an expedited analysis of how his staff handled the broken water line and the ensuing flooding that caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

“I’ve asked our chief administrative officer to find out what happened to ensure when we’re doing similar work, this doesn’t happen again,” he said. “I also asked ... Was our response appropriate and were the right people called in at the right time?”

Residents phoned the fire department around 11:20 a.m. and were upset that public works staff had not made the same call sooner.

Oak Bay operations manager Joe Brooks said he was ready to ask for assistance once his crew realized the situation was becoming unmanageable.

“It’s not normal procedure for us to phone the fire department when we have a water main break,” he said. “Once we realized we had a problem there, more crews were notified to bring in sandbags as well as the fire department for extra resources.”

B.C. Hydro said it received a call from the fire department to shut off power at about 11:50 a.m., well after  basements had flooded.

By 1 p.m., the water level had started to recede, so people could walk a narrow strip of pavement down the centre of Bowker. As crews dropped more sandbags to contain the water, boxes of Christmas decorations floated atop about 60 centimetres of water in the basement of Lorraine Olson’s house.

“I think it’s up to the bed in the other room,” she yelled to her son, Christopher Olson, who was wading through the frigid waters. “This place is just a disaster. The backyard is totally submerged.”

Public works crews drove through neighbouring streets shutting off water until the leak finally stopped around 3 p.m. They dug up a portion of the intersection to replace the broken valve and the water supply was turned back on around 8 p.m.

During the emergency, a reception area for evacuees was set up at Oak Bay Recreation Centre. Residents from at least seven houses had to spend the night away from their homes.

Broken valve sent frigid water down street and into homes

The 2200 block of Bowker Avenue in Oak Bay looked like a disaster zone Tuesday after a broken water line sent a flood of frigid water down the street and into people’s homes.

Diane Heavener arrived home about 9:30 a.m. and saw water pooling at the end of her street. By the time she got inside and called her daughter for help, water was already flowing into her front yard.

The water moved fast when a valve on the 40-centimetre water line broke, and the rush of water was too much for the storm drains to deal with, said public works crews who were replacing a fire hydrant at the time.

About a dozen homes were affected, with some basements seeing about one metre of water. Some lower levels were unfinished, but others could see up to $30,000 in damage, said Tony Weaver of Downs Construction Ltd.

Public works crews stopped the leak about six hours after the valve broke and worked into the night to repair the line.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

Pin in map shows location of water line break:


 

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