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L.A. races to repair broken water main

Officials fear commuter problems in the Studio City area that was flooded when a 62-inch pipe burst late Saturday night.

September 08, 2009|Teresa Watanabe and Rich Connell

Officials raced Monday to fix a large broken water main in Studio City and braced for tough rush-hours today near Coldwater Canyon Avenue, a heavily used mountain route connecting the San Fernando Valley to the Westside.

Commuters are advised to avoid the area and, if forced to detour, stick to Beverly Glen Boulevard to the west and Laurel Canyon Boulevard to the east rather than wind their way through unfamiliar mountain streets.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power crews finished welding the 62-inch water main -- one of the largest in the city -- that burst late Saturday, flooding residences and washing away cars in a powerful torrent that lasted hours. Water was as deep as 3 feet in some places and ripped a huge gash in the roadway.

Road repair crews were expected to begin rebuilding the most severely damaged portion of Coldwater Canyon Avenue, just south of Ventura Boulevard, late Monday or today. Much of the street remained closed south of the Ventura Freeway between Moorpark and Halkirk streets. It was not clear how long it would take to fix the roadway, which collapsed in large chunks in places.

On Monday, several onlookers gawked at city crews repairing the main water pipe at Coldwater Canyon and Ventura, and families struggled to clean up the messy aftermath.

On Dickens Street, half a block away, plastic bags of debris lined the muddy road as cleaning crews vacuumed up muck and sprayed down patios. Robert Mechaalani, a valet parking firm owner, said he awoke Sunday to water rushing down the road in the front of his house and patio chairs, tables and a new barbecue floating in three feet of water in his backyard. Water filled his garage, destroying a refrigerator and TV and damaging the foundation of his home.

He figures that it will take at least two weeks to clean up the mess.

He estimated his losses at $10,000, which he expects the city to reimburse, but he shrugged it off as an accident.

"Disasters happen," he said, as he supervised a cleaning crew. "Now how are we going to take care of it? That's what matters."

Engineers were trying to determine Monday whether a Coldwater Canyon bridge, which spans the Los Angeles River near Valleyheart Drive, was safe to reopen. The examination was not expected to be completed until at least Tuesday, said Capt. Richard Rea of the city Department of Transportation.

Local detours have been established to route northbound and southbound traffic around the closed section of Coldwater Canyon Avenue south of Ventura Boulevard, where the main broke.

Traffic officers will be stationed today at four intersections to guide motorists around the closures from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., officials said.

But Rea warned that the area could become congested this morning when the city heads back to work after the holiday weekend. Drivers may try to snake through hillside neighborhoods to get around the closures, Rea said.

"Some people are going to end up lost," he said. "I would just say they should remain with the major [alternative] corridors."

No injuries were reported in the flood, and officials were still adding up damage totals, said Kim Hughes, a DWP spokeswoman.

Claim forms for those affected by the flood are available on the DWP's website.

Preliminary reports indicated that six apartments in a complex on Valleyheart Drive were flooded, and three or four cars were damaged, she said.

Bill McGeorge and his fellow town-home owners escaped major property damage by barricading the entrance of their subterranean parking lot with carpets, tables and chairs.

But new plantings and sprinkler systems his gardening group recently put in along the Los Angeles River were destroyed.

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teresa.watanabe@latimes.com

rich.connell@latimes.com

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