Coldwater Canyon Shut Through Friday

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 2:48 PM PDT
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Coldwater Canyon Shut Through Friday

Randy

Forget wildfires -- portions of Studio City are under water.

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If Coldwater Canyon is preferred for your LA-Valley commute, you'll want to find an alternate route on Tuesday.

A 64-inch steel water main broke Sunday, flooding a section of Studio City and washing away an important thoroughfare across the Hollywood Hills. Dozens of homes and businesses were damaged, prompting evacuations. Coldwater Canyon Avenue between Halkirk and Ventura is projected to be closed and under repair through Friday.

Firefighters said the water along Ventura Boulevard was 3- or 4-feet deep in places at times, with cars being swept down the street. It was not immediately clear how many cars were damaged.

When the pipe broke, "the water surged up and the force of the water carried the street away," said DWP spokesperson Jane Galbraith, referencing Coldwater Canyon Avenue at Dickens Street.

Early on, a car was swept into a limousine near Coldwater and Ventura, according to a video crew at the scene. A home at Van Noord Avenue and Dickens Street was apparently flooded, as were dozens of homes and businesses along and south of Ventura Boulevard.

A carport collapsed at 13018 Valleyheart Drive about 1:30 a.m., but no one was hurt, Scott said. Several cars were damaged.

Photos from the scene showed what looked like a small lake outside of local businesses.

More than 120 firefighters, including an urban search and rescue team, and Department of Water and Power crews worked to shut off the flow by 3 a.m.

Crews were clearing debris from Ventura Boulevard and removing unsupported asphalt from the street to ensure safety before beginning repairs on the pipe Sunday morning.

"The flow has been stemmed. The response phase is ending and the recovery phase has begun," said fire spokesman Brian Humphrey just after 7 a.m., saying DWP personnel were out in force.

The broken main is a major trunk line that takes water from the Los Angeles Reservoir in the northern San Fernando Valley to the Franklin Reservoir, north of Beverly Hills, Department of Water and Power spokesperson Jane Galbraith said.

The trunk line does not feed individual customers, and only transfers water from reservoir to reservoir; so no homes or businesses will lose service, Galbraith said. Water pressure may be a little lower than normal, however, until the line is fixed.

The steel pipe is one of the oldest water mains in the city, dating to 1914, and was slated for replacement, she said. A similar rupture occurred on Sept. 19, 1993, in nearly the same spot, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Ventura Boulevard was closed between Whitsett and Fulton avenues and was expected to remain closed until mid-afternoon. Coldwater Canyon Avenue was closed both north and south of Ventura Boulevard from Moorpark Street to Halkirk Street until further notice, according to the DWP. Dickens Street was severely damaged, Galbraith said.

Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety inspectors were summoned to assess the damage to structures. At least two retaining walls were damaged, one behind 13059 Dickens St. and another along Valleyheart Drive.

Dozens of home and businesses, including the Bistro Garden at Coldwater, were flooded. But neither fire nor DWP personnel could offer a reliable estimate of the damage Sunday morning.

"Too many to count," Scott said.

Humphrey said the damage to residences was concentrated south of Ventura Boulevard and the businesses suffering the most damage were on the north side of Ventura Boulevard west of Coldwater Canyon Avenue.

A door-to-door survey of the wreckage was underway.

No one was injured, said Humphrey, but one person was stranded in their car as the water rose around them and fire personnel helped them to safety.

An evacuation center was set up at Robert Millikan Middle School at 5041 Sunnyslope Ave., in Sherman Oaks. Red Cross was notified and expected to respond, Scott said.

At the historic Sportsmen's Lodge, a catering hall and restaurant at the corner of Ventura, no damage was reported by Howard Liebgot, a hotel operator.

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