From snow’s sprinkles and sub-zero temperatures came a downpour inside the office spaces of the Museum of the Great Plains this week.

When sub-freezing temperatures hit mid-week, it caused the sprinkler system to freeze up and pipes to burst above the desk in Mary Owensby’s office in the administrative section of the facility, 601 NW Ferris. The museum’s executive assistant said that would be the first of trouble afflicting the museum following the winter storm. There was a saving grace, however.

“The collections and exhibits are fine,” she said.

Roof leaks in the exhibit area continued but don’t affect the displays, according to Owensby. As the City of Lawton owns the building’s lease, they have been due to make repairs, she said.

“This is a many years problem,” she said.

Jim Whitely, collections manager, showed the broken piece of pipe taken from Owensby’s office. He led a tour of other affected areas. Once the water was shut off, water remaining in the pipes froze and a domino effect followed. More pipes burst and flooded hallways and offices.

The kitchen area also suffered from the deluge. Whitely showed where the pipes overhead had busted, dousing the stove and oven below and filling the neighboring dishwasher. The stove, for sure, is beyond repair, he said.

Owensby said the waterflow was shut off Saturday morning.

In a portion of the building containing a darkroom that was built in 1960, more evidence of new pipes put in as repairs offer insight into the damaged. Whitely said that, although it’s fixed, there’s no telling what’s to follow.

It would be par for the course fromthis past week’s winter storm. Owensby said there were areas Saturday morning deeply under water.

“Every day it’s something new,” she said. ”We’ve all been called in to help.”

Museum Director Bart McClenny said by Saturday afternoon, the full extent of the damage is yet to be known. The City of Lawton has been contacted but, he said, no adjusters had been to the site. A claim has already been filed for damage to the office area.

McClenny said that if the damage had happened in the exhibit area, contents are fully insured. But it’s the area outside that boundary effected.

After hoping for a Saturday opening of the museum after the sprinklers become operational again, McClenny said that Friday afternoon made it apparent that wasn’t going to happen.

Saturday morning’s surprise now has all the water shut off in the building until a plumber can arrive Monday to patch any new leaks. McClenny then hoped everyone can get back to business.

“If we can get water back to the building then we can have the public come back to the building,” he said.

Written by Scott Rains:

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