The Great Flood Of January 31

Water line bursts, causing temporary chaos

Ester Matias

Ben Lapello and Allie Schwartz

Imagine this — the bell just rings for lunch; as you are walking down the hall, the fire alarm begins to blare and you hear someone screaming for a bucket; the distant sound of a water pouring onto the floors of the front entrance to the school can be made out amidst the chaos. 

The students of Gunnison High School (GHS) don’t need to imagine, because this actually happened on Monday, January 31.  

At exactly 12:20 p.m., the halls of GHS were stricken by a sudden panic. The fire alarm blared throughout the school and students evacuated the building rather unwillingly, just before lunch. No one knew what was going on unless they were one of the few near the office or in the commons. 

A pipe had burst in the ceiling of the office, spraying black liquid everywhere, flooding the office and overflowing into the entrance, commons, and even a little outside. This event will go down in the books as “The Great Flood of January 31.”

After the alarm sounded, GHS Principal Jim Woytek went to find out what was happening.

“I went straight to the office to find water gushing through the ceiling. Mrs. Wilkinson and I headed to turn off the water, while Mr. Hinton worked to mitigate the flooding in the office,” said Woytek.

The flood successfully stopped all foot traffic throughout the main entrance causing students and faculty to use different entrances. 

In any emergency situation, we have an emergency operations team that meets right away,” stated Woytek. “In addition, staff helped respond and keep water from damaging a broader area.” 

Staff and specialized workers were the heroes of the day, cleaning the office and commons, quickly allowing the school day to proceed normally. Teachers also helped to keep students away from the affected area and kept them in the aux gym for lunch.

These teachers deserve an applause as they gave up their lunch period to help out.

So what actually happened?

The fire suppression system that carries water throughout the ceilings of the building burst, due to the cold weather that comes with living in Gunnison. 

“There was a part of that system in the ceiling above the office that froze,” said Woytek. “When the building was constructed, the ceiling above was drywalled and there was no ventilation or air exchange to keep that one part of the system warm.” 

“My guess is that this was not the first time the pipe froze in that area, but after enough freezing and thawing, the pipe was damaged,” added Woytek. “On Monday, the pipe coupling burst and water sprayed from the system.” 

Despite contrasting opinions, the pipe only contained water that had been dirtied from the lengthy time it had been flowing through the pipes. Many students had their speculations for the liquid believing it was sewage. 

The flood definitely caused damage but the extent of the cost is unknown. “We don’t yet know the cost. We were able to use our own equipment to clean the water and carpets. Damage includes pipe repair and significant drywall damage. We also lost one computer to water damage” Woyteck concluded.