Water main fixed, stores open at Seattle's University Village

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on October 8, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 9 at 5:30 PM

The water is back on and stores are open at Seattle's University Village after a major water main broke Tuesday afternoon in Seattle. The broken main spewed water almost 20 feet into the air and flooded streets and the parking lot of the popular shopping center.

Drivers and shoppers had to navigate around some work crews who are working to finish cleanup, fix damaged pavement, and repair landscaping.

About 100 cars were trapped in the garage until crews shut off the main and removed the standing water with the help of pump trucks.

Repairs were finished just after 2 a.m. Wednesday on the 16-inch water main located just below the Northeast 45th Street viaduct.

"It was gushing 20 feet high," said Seattle Fire Dept. spokesman Kyle Moore. "In fact it was gushing so much it was touching the bottom of the viaduct."

Aerial views showed the southwest corner of the University Village parking lot was submerged under ankle-deep water. The water came close to businesses but didn't cause any damage.

"The water didn't make it into any of the shops," said Moore.

“I was up in my apartment and the water stopped working so I checked on the Internet and it said that the water main broke,” said Jeff Wend, who lives up the hill.

The Northeast 45th Street overpass was closed between Montlake Boulevard and 22nd Avenue Northeast as Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle Fire Department officials assessed the damage. The northbound lane of 25th Avenue Northeast was also closed.

“I find it fascinating that it’s in part of the old swamp area that really hasn’t been touched…" said a woman who lives nearby. "It wasn’t affected when they rebuilt the viaduct so it will be interesting to find out what really happened."

A UW spokesperson said no school buildings were damaged.

"We had 100 cars in the parking garage that couldn't get out until we got the water level down," said Moore.

SPU was able to remove the water using vaccuum trucks.  Bridge engineers examined the viaduct and found no significant issues.

Moore said there didn't appear to be any damage to utilities.

The cause of the break is under investigation, but it didn't appear to be caused by construction.  SPU said older pipes are the likely culprit. However, while the pipe was installed in the 1930s, SPU said it should have lasted another 70 years.

It's possible engineers will never know what caused the massive crack and break, but the rest of the 73-year-old pipe appears to be in good shape.

The city says improvements to the drainage system at University Village played a big role in keeping water out of stores.  The system was upgraded a few years ago after a storm flooded the area.

Brown water from main break? Let it run, SPU says.

Seattle Public Utilities posted information on their website, saying brown water is common when water mains break.

They say discolored water comes from internal pipe rust and sediment getting stirred up. When this happens the water is still safe, but the water may be unappealing, so they recommend that you wait until it clears before drinking it.

The water should clear on its own. Try running the cold water for a few minutes to see if it is clearing or still discolored. If the water does not clear, let the water sit for an hour. Then run the water for a few minutes and flush the toilet a couple of times.

Avoid running hot water if the cold water is still discolored. This will minimize filling the hot water tank with turbid water. If you are washing clothes at the time, it is better to stop the cycle while it is full and wait until clean water is available to finish. If you allow the water to empty from the washing machine and go into the spin cycle it is more likely to cause permanent staining to the laundry items.

KING 5's Greg Copeland contributed to this report.

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