Freeze causes city building to flood

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.

Tim Farley

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