City officials said Wednesday morning that roughly 600 Tulsa homes were without water due to over 120 water main breaks caused by the prolonged extreme cold.
City of Tulsa Water and Sewer Director Clayton Edwards said at a virtual press briefing that normally crews would allow broken mains to keep supplying water to homes and businesses even while waiting to be repaired, but the historic level of breaks has drained the city's municipal water supply to a point where they are now "valving down" entire lines.
"Right now, we have about 36 lines valved down," Edwards said. "That is impacting about 600 residences and nine businesses. As we continue with that operation today, that number will obviously increase."
Edwards said customers who lose water entirely may be without it for a while.
"With all the breaks and scheduling, right now we can't say when we will start a repair, a certain time. But if a customer's line or service is off, I would anticipate probably at least a day that they should anticipate having to go without water," Edwards said.
This is the most breaks at once in city history, Edwards said.
"Our ten-year average for the month of February is 66 water main breaks. Just on Monday alone, we had 63 water main breaks," he said. "So just in one day we almost reached our monthly average."
Mayor G.T. Bynum said residents should store water to have on hand in case of emergencies. Edwards said more line breaks are likely in the days ahead.
"Usually when temperatures start climbing and the ground kind of thaws out, we typically see another rash of breaks as the ground starts shifting again with these cast-iron lines," Edwards said. "So we anticipate that we will see more breaks coming. Our hope is that we can get a pretty good handle on the breaks that we have now, and hopefully if there's a long, gradual warm-up, maybe that will minimize our breaks, but we are expecting more breaks."
Tulsans can check the city's "break board" for a list of current line breaks.