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20M Gallons: LA Geyser, Flood Twice as Bad as Feared

Up to 20 million gallons of water gushed onto Sunset Boulevard after pipes ruptured and blew open a 20-foot wide, 10-foot deep sinkhole in Westwood

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    NEWSLETTERS

    More than 20 million gallons of water were lost during Tuesday's massive water main break near UCLA, doubling the initial estimate, officials said.

    Crews were still shutting off water to the busted pipe under Sunset Boulevard north of the UCLA campus Wednesday afternoon. Repairs weren't even expected to begin until after the water was shut off, said James B. McDaniel, the senior assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's water system.

    "This is a very unfortunate incident," he said during an afternoon press conference. "This is one of our bigger ruptures. It is a major event for us."

    Hundreds of vehicles are stranded in flooded parking structures and historic Pauley Pavilion's court shows signs of damage after a water main break Tuesday that sent up to 10 million gallons of water gushing onto Sunset Boulevard and the UCLA campus for more than three hours.

    UCLA Flooded After Water Main Break

    [NATL] Campus Underwater: UCLA Flooded After Water Main Break
    UCLA's campus turned into a swimming pool after a major water main broke. (Published Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014)

    At a mid-day news conference, school officials said they are waiting for areas to "dry out" before they can provide detailed damage estimates. Campus officials characterized the campus as in a "drying phase" Wednesday after the water removal process continued overnight.

    Large blower machines were being used in the historic Pauley Pavilion, Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center, JD Morgan Center and John Wooden Center. School officials said Wednesday morning the Pauley Pavilion court showed signs of "expansion and buckling."

    The break occurred at the Y-shaped meeting point of a 30-inch pipe installed in 1921 and a 36-inch pipe installed in 1956. Both pipes ruptured and blew open a 25-foot wide, 5-foot deep sinkhole at about 3:30 p.m. in the 10600 block of West Sunset Boulevard, officials said.

    "I can't speculate on what caused the leak at this point," said Jeff Bray, of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. "This repair is at the Y where the 30-inch main comes in at an extreme angle to the 36-inch main. The top of the pipe just lifted up and created an opening in the pipe."

    As for repairs and detailed damage assessments, crews must wait until after the closure of two leaks discovered along the pipes. The pipes deliver water to the area at a high velocity from Upper Stone Canyon Reservoir, a body of water about eight miles north of Westwood near the Sepulveda Pass.

    "We cannot begin repairs until we get the water completely down," Bray said. "We're looking at an extended period of time."

    Repairs are likely to cause traffic problems in the heavily traveled area through Thursday because Sunset Boulevard between Veteran Avenue and Hilgard Avenue will be closed for road work.

    Two parking structures and six facilities on the UCLA campus were damaged. UCLA had crews working throughout the night to remove water from those buildings.

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

    About 900 cars were inside Parking Lot 4 and Parking Lot 7, the two parking structures affected by the flooding. Officials say because the water may be mixed with toxic chemicals such as oil and gas, the water has to be safely removed and cannot just be pumped out into the street. UCLA is working with private companies to remove the water from the structure, Moore said.

    Officials say the cars in the structure will not be accessible until Friday.

    "A little less than half are totally submerged," said Kelly Schmader, assistant vice chancellor for UCLA.

    Motorists traveling in the area should use Santa Monica Boulevard, Wilshire Boulevard or Olympic Boulevard to avoid the road closure.

    All UCLA summer camp programming, including recreational activities, were suspended Wednesday, according to campus officials.

    NBC4's Samia Khan contributed to this report.