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CORVALLIS - James Eblin looked forward to a quiet night at home Monday, warm and snug as the icy winter winds raged outside. But something else was raging outside, too.

Eblin ended the evening with a broken arm after desperately trying to build a makeshift dike to protect his home from a burst water main that sent a river of water slamming into his Northwest Woodland Drive home. His house rests at the bottom of a T-intersection where Woodland meets Northwest Douglas Avenue.

When the water main burst around 3:30 p.m. on Douglas Avenue, Eblin watched from his window. A plume of dirt exploded into the air, followed by an arc of water 3- to 4-feet high. The torrent was spilling from the nearby Witham Hill water tower. The tower held half its capacity when the line broke - 62,500 gallons. All of it poured out.

The water came racing toward Eblin's house. He started using dirt and whatever he could find to build some kind of dam. Eblin said he did his best to stop the water, but it was like trying to push back the ocean with a broom.

Corvallis city workers cut off water to at least 100 houses in the Witham Hill neighborhood while they patched an 18-inch long crack in a water pipe, said Corvallis Public Works Director Steve Rogers. Water service was restored by 10 p.m. to the affected houses.

It's hard to tell how much the damaged water main will cost the city, Rogers added. The biggest immediate loss is all of the treated water. That will cost - by "rough, rough estimate" - about $10,000, he said.

The cast-iron pipe was put in the ground in 1965. Workers will have to install a 200-foot piece of replacement pipe next summer, Rogers said. That should cost another $10,000, bringing the total cost to the city for Monday's mishap to about $20,000.

Workers toiled in freezing temperatures to repair the crack and restore water service - often standing in bone-chilling water in the deep hole left by the burst pipe.

Eblin said the water soaked boxes in the garage, but he hadn't fully evaluated other damage to his house. The most obvious damage was to Eblin himself. In all the mud and water, he slipped and broke his arm. "It really was a total bummer," he said.

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