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Freeze causes city building to flood

Tim Farley February 3rd, 2014

Work crews have pumped out 1.3 million gallons of water since Sunday from a city office building at 420 W. Main St., according to OKC spokeswoman Kristy Yager.

The building’s basement flooded with more than 12 feet of water after a pipe leading to the fire suppression system burst early Sunday. City officials have not released a damage estimate yet, but Yager said the electrical system, computers, elevators and the heating and air units were affected.

The water consumed the entire basement. The building has been closed and has been without electricity since Sunday morning when the flood was discovered by city employees.

Since then, safety officials have monitored the carbon monoxide levels in the building. Some city workers went into the building Monday to retrieve their personal belongings, but were forced to leave almost immediately because of the carbon monoxide levels, witnesses said.

Yager said she was unaware that any city workers suffered adverse reactions to the carbon monoxide.

About 600-700 city employees from eight departments work in the building. Those departments include personnel, utilities, parks and recreation, planning, public works, development services, MAPS and finance.

“We’re hoping to get back in by the end of this week but that depends on a lot of things,” Yager said.

Already, parks and recreation employees have relocated to the Civic Center while utilities and some development services workers are operating out of a building at 1 N. Walker Ave.

So far, it’s unclear what type of city records and how many files may be damaged or destroyed, Yager said. City officials have contracted to have some of the documents freeze dried as a way to preserve them.

The first step in restoring documents is to immediately freeze the affected materials, which reduces the risk of mold growth, according to the American Freeze-Dry Operations, Inc., website. American Freeze Dry is located in Deptford, N.J.

The company’s website shows the documents should remain frozen until the drying process can be completed. The time needed to completely dry materials varies according to the thickness of the material, type of paper and degree of saturation, the company wrote on its website.

According to Yager, it’s unclear if personnel files in locked cabinets were damaged by the flood waters.

“We do know everything was floating up by the ceiling until they started pumping the water out, and then everything began to sink to the floor,” she said. “There were papers and boxes everywhere.”

Last May, another city building at 100 N. Walker was flooded due to massive storms that ravaged the entire OKC area. That building was closed for nearly eight months before workers reported back two weeks ago, Yager said.

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