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Thar She Blows! - Sunday Crash Creates Geyser

POSTED September 29, 2010 9:59 a.m.
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A geyser of water erupted when a truck involved in a minor vehicle accident knocked over the fire hydrant located at the corner of Yosemite Avenue and F Street on Sunday evening, Sept. 26, sending 20 feet of water straight into the air.

With the water main pressure at the spot being 40-42 psi (pounds per square inch) it is estimated 150,000 gallons of water were lost through the six-inch diameter hole during the hour and a half it took to gain access to the shut-off valve, said Duane Reynolds, water department leadman with Oakdale’s Public Works.

“What compounded matters was that the Caltrans project had overlaid the top of the access box to the valve so our guys had to jackhammer the asphalt to get to it,” Reynolds said.

In regards to the water lost, Reynolds added, “It doesn’t deplete the water table but the sad thing is that was money we spent to pump water out of the ground that didn’t get used for domestic use. The water went back into the storm system, which eventually does end up back in the ground.”

Ordinarily, it would’ve only taken 15 minutes to shut off the flow of water, Reynolds added.

“Overlaying the manholes and street boxes is common practice with a street project. After the paving is finished, they jackhammer them out again,” Reynolds said. “I’ve been here 30 years and I’ve not seen that fire hydrant hit in all that time. It was just bad timing, that’s all it was.”

Caltrans contracted the $1.1 million paving project, which goes from Ash Avenue on Highway 108 to Maag Avenue, to Modesto-based construction company George Reed Construction. The project is slated for completion by the end of October, said Chantal Miller, Caltrans District 10 Public Information Officer.

The driver of the small truck that caused the incident was traveling southbound on Yosemite Avenue when his foot slipped on the clutch, causing the vehicle to lurch forward. He swerved to miss the car directly in front of him and sheared off the fire hydrant. There were no injuries and alcohol was not a factor in the collision, said police officials.

The water overtook the sidewalk lining Yosemite Avenue and filled the back parking lot behind the Yosemite Avenue row of businesses, such as Café Bliss and caused a traffic jam as police directed vehicles away from the geyser, but no businesses reported any water damage.

“It looked like it came up to the door but the water didn’t actually come into the store,” Amanda Comley of Hobbies Arts & Crafts said. “We were lucky to have no damage.”

Oak Valley Community Bank, which took up residence in the restored historic building at the corner, reported similar findings.

“We had a small puddle in the basement that was no more than what you’d find after a significant rainstorm,” Rick McCarty, Executive Vice President of Oak Valley Community Bank said. “We were very fortunate. I suspect quality caulking and good paint prevented the water from actually coming into the building.”

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