Burst water main gets students out of school earlyStudents at Washington Elementary School in Cloquet got an unexpected reprieve from studies Wednesday morning when a water main burst near the school.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Students at Washington Elementary School in Cloquet got an unexpected reprieve from studies Wednesday morning when a water main burst near the school. Those whose parents could come get them got to leave school before noon, while the rest of the students were bused to Cloquet High School to watch movies.
In the meantime, a small river of water was running down 14th Street from the intersection with Doddridge south for several blocks for at least an hour.
City Street Supervisor Les Peterson said a 10-inch water main that runs under the north side of Doddridge between 12th and 14th streets was the culprit. Crews responded to a caller who saw the water coming up, but because the valves were frozen it took extra time to shut off the water going to the main.
City Utility Supervisor Tim Johnson said it isn’t unusual to have water pipes break in the winter, but the size of the break and the location exacerbated the situation.
“This is probably the worst water loss I’ve seen on a leak,” Johnson said, explaining that the city normally uses 1,000 gallons a minute. “We were up to almost 4,000 gallons per minute during the worst of it. We were dumping a lot of water on the street.”
He blamed Mother Nature for the leak. The recent severe cold snap drove the frost further down into the ground, and then the warming temperatures started a new reaction.
“In that transition from colder to warmer weather, the ground just moves and something’s got to give,” he said.
Johnson explained that the city has a device that looks like a portable pressure washer with heat that crews use to thaw the valves.
Washington school secretary Lori Alaspa said school officials learned of the water break at about 10:30 a.m. Students were fed and those whose parents could come to the school were released to their parents as they arrived. School buses transferred the rest of the students to the high school at noon. Regular bus riders would take their regular bus home from the high school, she explained, while walkers were going to be bused back to the elementary school at dismissal time to walk home as usual. Kids Korner, which moved to Zion Lutheran Church this school year, was operating as normal, Alaspa said.
Washington School parents got an automated voice message at around noon Wednesday explaining the situation:
“This is a message from the Washington Elementary School. A water main break is forcing us to transfer Washington Elementary School students to the Cloquet High School at noon today.
Parents may make arrangements to pick up their children at the Washington School by noon today. Parents may pick up their children after 12:30 p.m. by going to the Cloquet High School office. Office staff will be available at the Washington school to take phone calls and answer questions. Parents may also call the high school office if they need to contact their children or children’s teachers.
Kids Corner students will be taken to Kids Corner at the regular time.
Walkers will not be allowed to walk home until after the normal school dismissal time. School buses will help get students to Washington to begin their walk home.
Only parents, guardians or designated emergency contacts will be allowed to pick up their children. We are making arrangements to feed the students. They will have access to bathrooms, water, and will be watching movies.”
For any students hoping the break would lead to another day out of school, Johnson had bad news.
“There are six of us out here working now,” he said just after 2 p.m. Wednesday, noting that the water had been shut off on Doddridge Avenue from 10th to 14th streets and on 14th Street from Doddridge to Sahlman Avenue. “We’ll stay here until it’s done.”
He estimated that would be 6 p.m. W