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Phoenix library closes after being damaged, flooded in monsoon storm

PHOENIX — The flagship Phoenix public library was closed indefinitely after a pipe burst during a monsoon storm over the weekend, officials said.

Phoenix Fire Department spokeswoman Reda Riddle-Bigler said the Burton Barr Library near Central Avenue and Interstate 10 was hit by a microburst during Saturday night’s storm that broke a sprinkler pipe.

“This roof is actually designed to move and take such an impact but because the microburst was so strong that it broke through a concrete layer, lifting that weatherproof membrane and then slamming down on that pipe,” she said.

Riddle-Bigler said the broken pipe began pumping between 50 and 60 gallons of water per minute onto the fifth floor of the northwest corner building.

“It’s built like a museum,” she said. “There are many layers and water was shutting off the top of this building.”

An open fire hydrant typically pumps about 90 gallons per minute. The library’s website said several inches of standing water covered the first floor.

Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski said it looked like the storm happened indoors instead of outside.

“It looked like it was raining inside the library,” he said.

About 50 percent of the library sustained some sort of water damage. More than 300 drying fans and about 50 dehumidifiers were brought in to dry things out.

Despite the damage, Burton Barr Library spokeswoman Lee Franklin said the facility’s historic vault that holds more than 5,000 rare items appeared to be spared.

“As we were pleased to see [Saturday] night, minimal water was able to get anywhere near it,” she said, adding that another room that houses Arizona artifacts “seems to be in fairly good shape.”

Franklin said the library was working with other city departments to keep library services running while repairs are made.

“We are reaching out and working with them right now to talk about if this goes on for more than a day or two, what would plan B, C and D look like,” she said.

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