At 2:30 a.m. last Thursday, a 10-wheeler dump truck, carrying a load of ground asphalt from a Caltrans construction site, wreaked havoc on the residents of Tivoli Cove Condominiums, a large, oceanfront condo development just north of Corral Canyon.
The truck, on Pacific Coast Highway headed toward Santa Monica, drifted into the shoulder, for reasons unknown, and went over the edge of the road, spun around and broke a 12-inch water main, which began disgorging roughly 5000 gallons per minute down the hillside.
Many residents were awakened by several loud bangs, and then the building shaking. As described by Courtney Shane, 22, a Santa Monica College student, and a 2-1/2-year resident of the complex, living in a condo close to PCH, “At first it sounded like an earthquake or a large tree falling. There were several loud thumps and then a final crash.” Later, when she walked the scene, she said she could see where the truck had jumped the curb, laying down skid marks, hit and tore up a pole with a 3-1/2-foot concrete base, hit and broke open the water main, hit a second pole, then the bushes and a fence and a tree, knocking over the tree, its progress halted by another tree.
The break in the 12-inch water main, which is the principal water supply to western Malibu, sent a geyser 55-60 feet into the air, and then the water ran rapidly straight downhill into the complex, filling up some of the condominiums with water and then spilling over into the garages below. Emergency 911 calls brought emergency fire and sheriff’s help but the water shut-off people didn’t arrive for several hours. It was roughly 7:30 a.m. before the water was finally shut off and the repairs could begin.
In the interim, water came through the walls, down the hill and stairs, and into the common areas, overflowing the pool and the Jacuzzi and filling some condos and common area with water that was ankle to calf deep, and spilling over into the garages and down the multibuilding, multilevel condominium project. Some occupants desperately tried to move out their belongings to higher levels in their multilevel condos and to barricade the door opening but the volume of water soon overwhelmed them, despite their best efforts.
The damage could have been worse, but according to Tivoli Cove Home Owners Association President Judi Holden, she said at the meeting that she’s grateful to the fire department for working so tirelessly to shore up the Tivoli Cove area with sandbags. “God bless the Fire Department,” said Holden, noting firefighters had just returned from Pacific Palisades battling a blaze hours earlier.
At a meeting Saturday, following the Thursday episode, 20 residents met with city officials and the Red Cross to work out a plan to manage the event. Damages were roughly guestimated at $1 million plus, and that figure was expected by many to climb significantly higher as the full extent of the event was unearthed.
At the Saturday meeting, city Emergency Services Coordinator Hap Holmwood said they were looking into why it took five hours to get an emergency waterworks crew to turn off the water after the calls had been made to the County DPW Hotline.