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The Daily Wildcat

84° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


When Tucson freezes over

A constant stream of water flows from a burst pipe Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011, in the Tyndall Avenue Garage. Record-low temperatures across the city have caused pipe problems, natural gas shortages and disrupted water service.

Several dozen buildings on campus, and thousands more in Tucson, have had their water and gas services affected by yesterday’s record-low temperatures.

Chris Kopach, the director of Facilities Management, said that 30 to 40 buildings on campus were flooded as a result.

“”We’ve had flooding all day,”” Kopach said. “”Ever since things started thawing, that’s when we had flooding.””

According to Kopach, many of the buildings that were flooded were smaller houses north of campus, off of Helen Street. The “”Swede”” Johnson building and Steward Observatory were closed today due to damage caused by flooding.

“”The Swede Johnson & Vine Building are closed today due to water issues. We apologize for any inconvenience,”” read a paper sign that was taped to the main entrance door.

“”Our facilities staff are working very diligently to get everything back up and in working condition,”” Kopach said.

The James E. Rogers College of Law did not experience any water damages or difficulties, though it was in the same area as many older houses and buildings along Helen Street. The Daniel F. Cracchiolo Law Library also didn’t experience any problems. Students were still able to enter and use the facilities for studying and research.

The third floor of the Henry Koffler building also was flooded, and Kopach said the water flow looked “”like a waterfall.””

Kopach estimated the flooding began around 11 a.m., when pipes that were frozen overnight began to thaw.

Some 15 fire risers that supply water to the campus sprinkler system were also frozen, though fire alarms and smoke alarms are still operational.  

“”We are in the process of working with an outside company to get those repaired,”” Kopach said.

Low temperatures disrupted utilities services throughout the city. Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup estimated around 2,000 homes were without water service at some point on Thursday. As of 4 p.m. Thursday, service had been restored to 500 homes.

“”We’re regarding this as a regional emergency,”” Walkup said.

Southwest Gas also has issued a statement urging citizens to conserve their gas usage, due to a shortage of natural gas across the U.S. Walkup said as many as 14,000 homes were without heat. It may take two to three days to restore service to all those affected.

Walkup said shelters are being set up for those without heat.

“”The safety and health of all our people is of the utmost importance,”” Walkup said. “”If you need to move your family or your pets to a shelter, we will have it set up.””

— Luke Money, Brenna Goth and Lucy Valencia contributed to the reporting of this article.

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