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Publish Date: 5/10/2005

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Longmont utility worker Sky Solomon directs a backhoe Monday afternoon while preparing to fix a broken fire hydrant in the 800 block of First Avenue in Longmont. Investigators say a truck possibly struck the hydrant at the curve of First Avenue where it turns into Pratt Street about 12:40 p.m. and then fled the scene. Thousands of gallons of water caused minor street flooding in the area.Times-Call/Richard M. Hackett

Broken hydrant floods street
Truck thought to have hit plug on First Avenue


LONGMONT — It’s not often someone gets to soak her feet while having her tires changed.

But that’s just what Janet Nelson did Monday afternoon, after an unknown driver struck a fire hydrant on First Avenue and sent thousands of gallons of water gushing down the street.

“It’s a nice day to get new tires,” she joked, striding in ankle-deep water across the street entrance to Diagonal Tire and Alignment shop.

“Right after I get my new tires, I’m going to go to get my truck washed,” she said.

Investigators say an unknown, contractor-type truck struck the fire hydrant at the curve of First Avenue where it turns into Pratt Street, at 12:41 p.m. and then fled the scene.

Longmont police Officer Gary Kirby said police don’t have any suspects or witnesses to the crash, and police are hoping that someone will come forward with information.

Jeff Teravest, distribution and collection systems superintendent for the city of Longmont’s water department, said Monday that office workers in his department were working to retrace all of the calls that had been placed to inform the city of the broken hydrant in hopes of finding witnesses for police.

As city water workers tried to stop the hemorrhaging water, which also covered the street in silt, John Hanson watched as backhoe operators piled dirt feet away from the entrance of his hardwood retail store, Diverse Hardwoods, at the other end of the block.

Workers had to close the street as they concentrated on stopping the water flow and cleaning the road of silt, but they expected to open it later in the afternoon.

Hanson said he felt lucky because water hadn’t spread further into his business than just inches past his welcome mat.

“It didn’t come in very far,” he said. “I just picked up all my electronics off the floor.”

Leaning inside the doorway of the store he has operated for more than four years, he commented, “A little excitement is OK.”

Todd Grose, water supervisor for the city, estimated that more than 50,000 gallons had spewed from the broken hydrant.

But that shouldn’t have happened, he said.

To prevent just such flooding, Longmont’s fire hydrants are designed to shear off at ground level if hit, keeping pipes intact and regulating the flow. But this hydrant, which Grose said had been hit by cars four or five other times, didn’t.

Instead when the hydrant broke, pieces affixing it to the main water line broke too, leaving water gushing from the hydrant, he said.

Teravest said city workers will likely have to relocate the fire hydrant because the amount of water that poured from it made the ground too unstable to support it.

It could be the beginning of next week before the hydrant is replaced.

Amanda Arthur can be reached at 303-684-5215, or by e-mail at aarthur@times-call.com.

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