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Water tower malfunctions, 100,000 gallons of water freeze on Minnesota streets

100,000 gallons streamed out of an overflow valve after a malfunction made the automated wells think the well was empty. (KARE)

During a cold snap like the one currently wrapped around Minnesota and parts of the Midwest, water doesn't stay in liquid form long. It turns to ice.

In White Bear Township, there's plenty of it after a malfunction with one of the community's water towers sent more than 100,000 gallons spilling to the ground.

Call it adding insult to injury, or maybe just another layer of aggravation in this extra cold weather. People in White Bear Township woke up to see their streets as skating rinks because of a water tower overflow.

Scraping brand new ice off the streets wasn't how the White Bear Public Works crews expected to spend their subzero day, especially considering it didn't rain or snow last night.

“Staff was in very early and they cleared the ice on the roadways as good as they can, until we get some warmer weather, maybe Sunday, and we've used salt and sand to mix it," said Dale Reed, Public Works Director for the township.

The water that hit the streets came right out of the top of the water tower. 100,000 gallons streamed out of an overflow valve.

"It was moving water, freezing up as it was moving,” Reed described. “You got the perfect scenario. You can make ice like no tomorrow with the cold weather and the wind."

It all started when the water level sensor inside sent a conflicting message last night.

"[It] sent an alarm that we had a high level and a low level,” said Reed. “Which is kind of mixed messages."

Crews found a pressure line had frozen, and fixed it. Or so they thought.

"Things were good, we put more heat to it, another source of heat,” Reed said. “Well, that source to help protect it, that failed."

As a result, the wells thought the tower was empty, and kept pumping more water into the tower, even thought it was full. as crews wrapped up clearing driveways, they counted their blessings that homes weren't affected.

"Good news is we had water,” Reed said. “We don't want low water, or no water in the tower."

Of course there's only so much they can do until the weather warms up, but in the meantime they're asking people to take it slow and just realize there may be a coating of ice under their wheels.

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