Local News

Geyser from broken main floods Raleigh streets

Posted July 23, 2008 5:33 a.m. EDT
Updated July 23, 2008 6:27 p.m. EDT

— A water main break in downtown Raleigh sent about 200,000 gallons of water shooting into the air and forced several streets to close for much of the day.

Wilmington Street, between Martin and Davie streets, was closed until about 3:30 p.m. as crews rushed to pump water out of a flooded parking deck nearby.

"It was going for an hour and a half, shooting 25 feet. It was like Old Faithful," said Mary Floyd Pag, a resident at The Hudson condominium complex across the street.

Residents at The Hudson had to move their cars after the parking lot flooded. Many reported power outages – the main circuit box to the building is in the garage – and low water pressure.

"The power went out in the building, but I went downstairs. There was a foot, a foot-and-a-half of water in the garage already, and we rushed to get our cars out," said Nathan Singerman, vice president of The Hudson Homeowners Association.

"One of the last people who pulled their car out, they said it was high enough to move the car," Pag said.

Since the 12-inch main was new, public utilities crews said they didn’t have a map of the line, making it hard to find the cutoff point.

The break happened around 4:30 a.m. and crews were able to shut off the water main just before 6 a.m. The line was capped by noon as crews worked to repair the damage.

Andy Brogden, water distribution superintendent for Raleigh's Public Utilities Department, said it was unclear how the main ruptured since no one was doing any construction work in the area at the time. He said metal fatigue might have caused the line to fail and rupture.

Although officials said underground utilities work at the nearby RBC Plaza wasn't to blame, the developer of the high-rise, Highwoods Properties Inc., offered free rental cars to people whose cars were damaged and offered to pay for hotel rooms at the Sheraton Capitol Center downtown for residents left without power.

Highwoods also lined up a portable generator to help restore power to The Hudson.

"They've been incredible," Singerman said.

The flooding caused some stores nearby to miss out on morning business.

"I lost the morning traffic, and I lost a couple of vendors," said Taz, who owns a Wilmington Street convenience store. "That's OK. That's what neighbors are for. We all have to be understanding."