Raleigh, N.C. — A water-main break inside the Interstate 440 Beltline was repaired late Monday night, stopping losses in a city already worried about its water supply.
The break happened at about 4:15 p.m. at the intersection of Glenwood Avenue and Oberlin Road. Inbound lanes of Glenwood Avenue caved in, authorities said, as gallons of water gushed from beneath the street.
Utility crews caped the 8-inch main within an hour and began to fix the break.
"We were able to get the main shut down fairly quickly," said Andy Brogden, water distribution superintendent. "Then crews had to excavate to determine exactly where the main broke."
As with any breach in the water system, workers then must flush the repaired line and test for bacteria.
Ed Buchan, water conservation specialist with Raleigh's Department of Public Utilities, said about 200,000 gallons of water were lost before the break was contained.
"It is always unfortunate when you have a water loss any time of year, but especially when you are in a severe drought," Buchan said.
Levels in Falls Lake have dropped 8½ feet below normal, and officials believe Raleigh's normal allocation of water from Falls Lake, which serves as the city's primary reservoir, will last only until mid-May.
The water-main break forced Robert Blair to spend a few hours in his own personal drought. His water was turned off while the water-main break was repaired.
"I bought us some water. It won't be enough to shower, but enough to drink," he said.
Buchan said 12 feet of the 8-inch pipe was repaired by 10 p.m. and Glenwood Avenue was reopened in both directions. The hole in the road caused by the break was filled with dirt. It will be repaved sometime Tuesday.
Over the past month, there have been more than 50 pipe breaks in the Raleigh water system.
"Whenever we get in this weather pattern, we expect it and we know it is going to happen and we have crews on standby," Brogden said.
When the ground goes from cold to warm during the day, expanding and contracting soils can cause underground water lines to break. Some of the pipes workers were dealing with were 70 years old. However, Brogden said, newer pipes also break in winter-time conditions.
The 200,000 gallons lost was a small fraction of the more than 40 million gallons that Raleigh water customers use in a day, Buchan said.
The last time there was a water loss of this magnitude was in November, when 500,000 gallons gushed from a break in a main under Avent Ferry Road.