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Frank Gray

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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
A water main break along Maxine Drive is trickling water onto the already snow-clogged street. Residents are finding it difficult to navigate the snow-and-ice covered street.

Trickling water main break makes street treacherous

The Journal Gazette

If residents of Fort Wayne were to hold a contest to see whose street was in the worst shape, some people along Maxine Drive would probably be happy to nominate their stretch of road just south of Lexington Avenue.

It seems about two weeks ago a water main began to leak somewhere in the 1200 block of Maxine. Water trickled down the road to Lexington, freezing along the way.

According to Hannah Benjamin, who lives on that block, they reported the leak, and a city truck came out and marked the spot of the leak, but the truck left and so far no work crews have returned, she said.

That was two weeks ago, when temperatures had moderated and much of the earlier snow had melted.

But then temperatures fell, more snow fell, and the little stretch of Maxine became what Benjamin called a new tourist attraction: a series of ice canyons that made it nearly impossible for residents to get out of their driveways.

Benjamin tried to take her mother’s car to work one morning (her car was in the shop) and got stuck for 45 minutes in the canyons, which are still there and will be until temperatures get well above freezing for a few days.

While they were stuck, Benjamin said, another neighbor tried to venture out and also got stuck.

That was just the start. Getting stuck in the deep ruts of snow-lined ice has become routine. Benjamin has missed work. “I actually had to call off work,” she said. “I’m a college kid. I’m poor.”

Meanwhile her stepfather had to take time off work to pull stuck cars out of the road.

Benjamin and her mother, Laura Michalak, say they’ve reported the mess to the city, and they say her stepfather has also called.

But the ice remains. The street was plowed a couple of nights ago after the latest snow, but the ruts and holes in the ice are unbearable, Benjamin says.

Indeed, it’s a mess, especially if you’re trying to get out of a driveway.

Unfortunately, it’s likely here to stay for a while. The weather forecast is for continued cold, with temperatures not even approaching freezing past the end of the week.

You have to be sympathetic about their and their neighbors’ plight.

I called the city to ask about the water leak and the fact that it hadn’t been repaired.

But you also have to have some sympathy for the work crews that have to dig up the streets and fix the leaks in the dead of winter.

Frank Suarez, a spokesman for the city, said there are 400 to 500 water main breaks in the city each year. That’s slightly more than one a day.

The city has only so many crews to fix these breaks, and, thanks to the extreme weather, in one 24-hour period in the last couple of weeks the city had 14 water main breaks, Suarez said. Each break can take six to 15 hours to repair, he said.

The city did check out the leak on Maxine, but it was determined to be minor and it wasn’t clear where the line was leaking, so the city decided to monitor it and deal with major breaks that were actually throwing chunks of concrete into the air.

Breaks are tackled based on their flow, and there have been some major breaks spewing huge amounts of water, Suarez said.

So you can understand why the break on Maxine didn’t necessarily get top priority.

Unless you live on Maxine and can’t get to work.

But the Maxine leak is on a list to be fixed, I’m told, and the city might try to dump some salt there, just to speed along the melt, when it comes.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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