While Building The South Austin Hospital – Early 1980s

We had contracted to install the water, wastewater and storm drainage for the new hospital that was being built just west of South 1st on Ben White.

We were getting down to the end of the project. Everything had worked out about as well as we could have hoped for. It was time to hook into the city’s 66″ water main that crossed Ben White and continued south on James Casey Drive.

We were required to tap into this large main at night, since it was the major source of water for all of South Austin. We worked through the night making the tap and everything went perfectly.

As the sun came up we were all standing around admiring what a great job we’d done. Several of the higher up city water department guys even stopped by on their way into the office to congratulate us on the fine job we’d done.

The rubber tire backhoe we had used all night was jacked up on its outriggers, with the rear tires just above the ground. As the operator had stepped off the machine he had knocked the shifter into reverse. The hydraulics leaked off, allowing the tires to contact with the street. As timing would have it, it started backing up all on its own. About then we heard a loud noise and looked around to see that rubber tired backhoe, unaccompanied had backed off into the huge hole we had been working in.

It broke the 16″ valve off that we had made the tap through. A full 16″ inch high pressure stream of water started gushing out of that hole. It was the beginning of rush hour on Ben White. Within minutes there was 3 feet of water flooding across that portion of the highway. Cars were being rerouted, as that was the major east – west thoroughfare for all of South Austin. There major traffic tie ups every where.

Several of the main line valves weren’t operating properly so the city couldn’t shut them off. That sure was an exciting morning, waiting for the water in thousands of feet of pipe all over South Austin to drain out, so we could install another 16″ valve.

After an all nighter, then an all day’r, water was restored to hundreds of homes and we were finally able to go home.

I figured we would be banned from ever working in the city after that. But we actually never had any repercussions from it that I remember.

I think that may be where the origins of the phase $**t happens was first used. 😃

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