By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A water line break flooded the yard and driveway of one Havre homeowner, the driveway and garage of another, and sent city workers scrambling to repair the line.
The break, in the middle of Seventh Street just up the hill from Ninth Avenue, happened sometime before midnight Tuesday, said Rob Johnson, who lives just below the break on Seventh Street. He said Wednesday that water was flowing down the street when he drove to work at midnight Tuesday.
The break was reported to the city about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, and crews and equipment were sent to the site, said Gary Schaub, the city's assistant public works director. A block of homes on Seventh Street between Ninth Avenue and Legion Lane were without water between about 7 a.m. and noon while crews worked to fix the break. Homeowners were notified and a water truck was sent to the area to provide water, he said.
Crews had to remove the ice and snow and use jackhammers to dig into the street to get to the line, Schaub said.
"It's kind of like changing a flat tire in a snowstorm," he said.
Schaub said the break did not cause property damage as far as he knows.
The break in the 6-inch water line was probably caused by the ground shifting and heaving in the cold, Schaub said. He said line breaks in cold weather are not uncommon, and that it is likely there will be more.
Before water was shut off Wednesday, the break sent water running west down Seventh Street, into the driveway and back yard of Frank and Edelene Rucinsky, then northwest down a retaining wall and into the driveway of Vladimir and Ascension Blatasky in the 600 block of Ninth Avenue.
From there it flowed north down the street and sidewalk on the west side of Ninth Avenue to the intersection of Ninth Avenue and Sixth Street. The water created a layer of ice several inches thick in some places along its route.
"We've got like a swimming pool in the back yard," Edelene Rucinsky said Wednesday.
Frank Rucinsky said he received a call from the city about the leak about 8 a.m. Wednesday, and opened his garage door in time to prevent it from being frozen shut by the layer of ice forming on his driveway.
Some of the water did get inside the Rucinskys' garage. One of the tires of their car was frozen to a section of shag carpet on the garage floor, and a thin sheet of ice formed along the east wall inside his garage. Rucinsky said the garage does not appear to be damaged.
The leak was "quite a surprise, I'll tell you," Rucinsky said as he walked across the shell of ice that covered most of his back yard. The deepest part to the north had standing water beneath the ice. He called the incident "comical, really."
The Balatskys, whose property is below the Rucinskys' back yard, said the water that flowed into their driveway has made it unusable. There is also ice covering half the garage floor, they said.
City workers scraped both driveways with Caterpillar tractors Wednesday morning.
On Wednesday afternoon 4 or 5 inches of ice was still standing in the Balatsky driveway. Vladimir Blatasky said he will just wait until the ice melts to use his driveway because it's too slippery now.
Ascension Blatasky said she thought water was still seeping from the Rucinsky property because the ice in the driveway was still soft, and the yellowish icicles that had hung from the retaining wall Wednesday morning had expanded to form a frozen waterfall by that afternoon.
When it does melt, Blatasky said, she is afraid there will be water damage in her basement.
Schaub said the ice on the driveway shouldn't cause property damage. He said it isn't any different than the ice and snow that accumulates during a normal winter.
"I guess there's nothing more that we can do," he said. "We went in there with our equipment and scraped the ice that was there."
For now the ice is only an inconvenience, Blatasky said.
"I don't know how I'm going to get to the garbage," she said. "I hope I don't break any bones."
Anyone who needs to report a water-line break should call the Public Works Department at 265-4941 during business hours or the Havre Police Department at 265-4361 after 5 p.m., Schaub said.