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Flooding from a sheared off fire hydrant halted construction work on a Stanford University housing project and forced the evacuation Saturday of the Stanford Park Hotel at 100 El Camino Real, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District said.

The flooding from the gushing hydrant, which put out an estimated 4,500 gallons a minute for up to an hour, threatened a retaining wall in a three-story-deep below-surface parking garage for the Stanford Properties construction site at 500 El Camino Real, which was filling “like a bathtub” fire officials said in a news release.

The hotel had already been evacuated when firefighters arrived at the scene shortly before 10 a.m. Saturday and the source of the flood was determined to be the construction site next door, where a forklift had broken off a hydrant near the railroad tracks

Firefighters and utility workers from California Water Service (Cal-Water) were hampered in trying to locate the hydrant valve “due to the new construction, and changes needed for this large project,” the fire district said.

Workers even went into the forceful cone of water coming from the hydrant in an unsuccessful effort to stop the flow.

At least two separate units from Cal-Water responded quickly to the emergency and “shut off a number of valves until finally locating this one near the Big-5 store on El Camino Real. Because this is such a new project, the water distribution main had not been listed in their records yet,” Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said.

Schapelhouman said:

“We estimate that the water was flowing at up to about 4,500 gallons per minute for up to an hour.”

The chief added:

“That’s a significant amount of water and the stabilization of the area, now that it’s been saturated and in some areas washed out, especially around the retaining wall, is of concern.”

Construction has been suspended “until the area is pumped out, the damaged area is inspected, then backfilled, re-compacted and then deemed safe,” the district said.

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