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Overnight water main break heavily damages Everett man's apartment

KOMO photo

EVERETT, Wash. - A street turned into a sheet of ice overnight after a water main broke in Everett.

Officials say the 6-inch water main broke early Tuesday morning at 35th Street and Oakes Avenue, creating a pool of water in the surrounding area that quickly began to freeze.

Crews arrived on scene and began digging up the water main and making emergency repairs.

The city hasn't determined an exact cause of the break, but officials haven't ruled out the possibility that cold temperatures could have been a factor.

The break caused extensive damage to one man's apartment nearby.

"It was just super loud, too. It sounded like a waterfall," said renter Coby Smith.

Just about everything on his floor was still soaked Tuesday afternoon from the one-to-two inches of water that crept through his bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. He was getting ready for bed when he noticed it.

"Right under here is where I saw water pouring through, so I quickly reached and unplugged all of the electronics and tossed them up here," Smith said while showing KOMO News the damage in his bedroom. "It was exciting. It got my adrenaline rushing, and I was very amped to get everything moved."

The water main break was the 10th in Everett since December 1, 2016, city officials said. The most severe happened on Rucker Hill in mid-December and temporarily left about two dozen homes without water service.

Everett has close to a million lineal feet of cast iron pipe from the post World War II era that can break as temperatures change, particularly around 36 degrees, city officials said.

"As we approach 36-degrees, whether it’s warming from below 36 and going above it or cooling from above 36 and going down, the soil around the pipe and the water in the pipe are contracting or expanding," said Kathleen Baxter, Information and Education Officer for Everett Public Works. "And it causes pressure on the pipe that wouldn’t ordinarily be there. The soil moves in that process and that affects the pipe."

The city constantly collects data to prioritize problem spots, Baxter said.

Some breaks prompted crews to start installing a new water main pipe along a several block stretch of Broadway Avenue in October.

The city of Everett isn’t alone.

"These older cities… they have the older pipes. And there’s no way to do a complete replacement of every pipe that needs to be replaced at one time," Baxter said. "You just have to have a very strategic approach and prioritize and allocate your dollars as efficiently as you can."

Smith sees his situation as simply an inconvenience.

He’s never had an issue before now and remains thankful the damage wasn’t worse.

"If I would have been asleep then it could have been a whole different story," Smith said.

Most of the 10 water main breaks since early December required pretty simple repairs, Baxter said. The water main break Tuesday morning was more complicated because something actually came off of the pipe at one of the joints, she added.

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