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Cold bursts pipe at police station

When long-time Wichita, Kan., resident Steve Almon took over as Oak Harbor police chief two years ago he thought he’d left freezing winters and broken water pipes behind.

He was wrong.

The city’s police station received a significant soaking early Tuesday morning after plunging temperatures broke a water pipe nestled in the station’s ceiling. Water soaked, then collapsed, ceiling tiles in a detective’s office. The ceiling tiles came crashing down atop a pair of computers. The water then soaked through carpeting and leaked into floor-level electrical conduits. The unexpected gusher also temporarily deadened some phone lines.

The leak was discovered at about 5:30 a.m., just as much of Oak Harbor was awakening to a winter wonderland.

Almon said he has been in contact with the city’s insurance carrier. Meanwhile, carpet-cleaners, plumbers and electricians have worked to keep damages to a minimum.

Even so, Almon estimates damages of between $2,000 and $10,000, a “broad guess” that may or may not include the two computers, which are still being aired out.

Almon, who retired as a lieutenant in Wichita after 20 years on that city’s police force, got used to harsh winter weather in Kansas. He also served as chief of police in two Oklahoma towns, where temperatures routinely dipped below freezing.

But he didn’t expect to face such winter-weather woes in Oak Harbor, where a cold drizzle and a brisk wind is about as chilly as it gets.

An arctic blast changed all that earlier this week, as snow blanketed the city, shutting down schools and shops.

But at the police station it was business as usual. That is, until leaking water was noticed, likely 30 to 45 minutes after the pipe burst.

“Water was everywhere,” said Barbara Sampson, support services supervisor at the police station. “All the carpeting was soaking wet in the whole back half of the building.”

Sampson arrived at 8 a.m. to start the day shift. By that time, chairs and desks been moved out of people’s offices and into hallways. A carpet cleaning company had arrived and was busy sucking out the water.

“It was quite a mess,” Sampson said.

Almon, who was out of town at the time the pipe burst, arrived at the station Wednesday morning and found that his phone didn’t work until Wednesday afternoon. Heavy-duty fans had been blowing phone and electrical conduits dry for going on a day-and-a-half.

Now the worry is mold, Almon said.

“We want to make sure we get that moisture out of there as quickly as possible,” he said. “That’s why we jumped right on it.”

Almon said he doesn’t like to place blame but acknowledged that the same pipe burst five years ago during similar winter weather— long before he took the chief job. The pipe was supposed to have been insulated to prevent a similar problem but apparently the pipe is higher than any of the additional insulation that was added.

“We’re going to stick Styrofoam wrap on the pipe,” Almon said. “We’re going to fix that so it’s not going to happen again.”

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