Sleep didn’t come easily for a small number of Elsberry residents on the night of Jan. 6, thanks to a break in a four-inch water main at the intersection of Lincoln, Sanderson and Baskett Streets.
“We were alerted by city hall that a customer had called saying they could see water going down the street,” said Alliance Manager Marshall Suddarth.
The streets had already been deluged with snow and the harsh temperatures threatened to drop even lower.
The last thing anyone needed was a water main break to further complicate matters.
Crews first responded to the break at around 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, but it was well into the morning hours on Jan. 7 before the problem had been remedied.
Suddarth said a few of the local residents braved the cold and snow to come out and see what all the fuss was about.
“We were being pretty noisy for two in the morning, but everybody that came out was pretty cordial,” said Suddarth.
Fortunately, the break was fixed live and residents weren’t forced to endure having their water shut off.
“We repaired it with a four-inch clamp,” said Suddarth. “It has a special rubber lining inside that helps it seal up the pipe as it tightens. It’s sort of like putting a patch on an inner tube.”
Repairing the break turned out to be relatively simple, but dealing with the cold was quite a different matter.
“We froze,” said Suddarth.
Suddarth said the closer you are to the pipe the warmer you feel.
“When you’re down in the hole you’re actually warmer,” said Suddarth. “The water is coming out of a well site, so it’s about 50 degrees. It’s when you get out that it’s pretty bad.”
Suddarth added that once a worker’s clothes ice over he or she has an added layer of insulation.
In addition to the weather, the crew was also plagued by equipment malfunction.
“The backhoe had a tire that split during the middle of the repair, so there were some complications,” said Suddarth.
Suddarth said workers returned the following day to clean things up as much as possible.
“We still have the hole closed off but the street is open,” said Suddarth.
Because of the split tire on the backhoe workers weren’t able to get any rock for backfill.
That meant the hole had to be filled it in with mud.
“We’ll dig that out and put rock back in to get that opened,” said Suddarth. “Once all the snow is gone we’ll be able to clean everything up.
Suddarth said the break in the pipe was what is known as a circle split.
“That tells me the break was due to ground movement,” said Suddarth.
According to Suddarth, a break caused by pressure leaves a hole in the side of the pipe rather than damage all the way around which is most commonly seen with breaks due to ground movement.
“As cold as it got we’re lucky that’s all we ended up with,” said Suddarth.