Burst pipe causes flooding; Ionia Co. Courthouse closed

People work to mop up water at the Ionia County Courthouse after pipes burst. (Feb. 20, 2015)

IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) —  Mother Nature brought justice to a temporary halt in Ionia Friday, after the frigid weather is believed to have caused a pipe to burst, flooding the historic courthouse.

Courthouse employees could hear water running through the walls and down the elevators shaft of the 130-year-old courthouse just before 9:00 a.m. Friday morning.

Flooding at Ionia County Courthouse after pipes burst. (Feb. 20, 2015)
Flooding at Ionia County Courthouse after pipes burst. (Feb. 20, 2015)

Officials say the damage could have been much worse if not for the quick action of some court employees, including a judge and the county prosecutor, who helped carry out the evacuation.

And by carry out, we mean just that.

Probate Court Judge Robert Sykes Junior was handling a guardianship case involving a 95-year-old woman who uses a wheelchair.

“My staff was slipped a note indicating there was a major water break and the courthouse was to be evacuated immediately,” said Judge Sykes.

The elevator was out, as water was making its way down the shaft. They’d have to take the stairs.

So the judge and County Prosecutor Schafer did what they needed to do.

“We executed the two person lift and carried the lady down two flights of stairs,” said Judge Sykes. “I think she was a little bit concerned that we were going to drop her. She was a very pleasant lady. 95 years old and she just wanted to get out of here, so we carrier her down. She thanked us and away she went.”

It’s not clear just how many gallons came from the pipe, which carries water for the fire sprinkler system all the way up to the courthouse’s upper floor.

It was enough to create about a foot of standing water in some areas of the lower level.

When the water came down, employees went to work.

“It was a good response by everybody in the building,” said Doug DeVries, Ionia County’s Emergency Management Director.

They formed bucket brigades to keep the water from rising near critical equipment in the basement.

That effort helped keep the water from damaging vital components to the courthouse operations, like computer servers.

Damage was confined to carpet and drywall in the basement.

“It could have been much worse. Yes. Absolutely,” said DeVries.

Barring any unforeseen problems, the courthouse should reopen Monday morning.

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