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Broken water main floods alleys, streets near downtown St. Louis

Broken water main floods alleys, streets near downtown St. Louis

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A water main break floods parking garage on Washington Avenue. Video by David Carson

UPDATE: The boil water advisory was lifted just after 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

ST. LOUIS — A 36-inch water main burst just west of downtown Tuesday, sending water gushing along Lucas Avenue and North Tucker Boulevard. The flooding swamped basements, shut down businesses and triggered a boil advisory.

The break was first detected about 6 a.m. Water was entering the basements of some lofts along Lucas and Washington avenues.

Dozens of vehicles in the basement of a parking garage were inundated by high water, and two residents of one Washington Avenue apartment building said their building smelled of gasoline from the submerged cars.

Barriers set up along Tucker Boulevard directed traffic around pools of water. The water had receded by 1:30 p.m. but some buildings and apartments were without power.

St. Louis fire Capt. Leon Whitener said a few firefighters were initially sent to the scene to investigate after alarms were sounding from flooding in some businesses.

Curtis Skouby, head of the city water division, said crews hurried to shut off valves leading to the main that broke on Lucas, just west of Tucker. But by then a half block or more had flooded.

“It was flowing down the street,” Skouby said. “A 36-inch main, it releases a good amount of water.”

Water gushing along Lucas Avenue at Tucker Boulevard on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Video submitted by resident

Main breaks are somewhat random, Skouby said, and he won’t know what caused the break until crews dig it up.

As of Tuesday afternoon, repairs on the main were ongoing. Skouby estimated the pipes wouldn’t be completely fixed for about a day, and street repairs may take even longer. The force of the water buckled part of Lucas Avenue and pushed up soil there.

“We’ll be working around the clock until we get the water main break fixed,” he said.

Because of a drop in water pressure, the city cautioned some residents in a large swath of downtown and beyond to boil water before consuming it. The boil advisory is for a 3½-square-mile area roughly bounded by Palm Street, Interstate 70, Chouteau Avenue and Jefferson Avenue.

Skouby’s office will analyze water samples to decide when it’s safe to lift the boil advisory. He said it might be a day before that happens.

Ameren Missouri shut off power to several buildings because of safety concerns with water touching electrical equipment. Company spokesman Jeff Trammel said the city’s water division would let the utility know when it was OK to restore power.

Skouby said he wasn’t certain how many businesses or apartments were affected. He said most of the damage appeared to be confined to the roughly five buildings immediately surrounding the break, which occurred in the alley alongside Crab’s Landing, a restaurant that opened last month at 701 North Tucker Boulevard.

Yan Hua Chen, one of the owners of Crab’s Landing, said her first employees to arrive at the restaurant found a dry dining room. But they found water on the kitchen floor and a flooded basement with water halfway up the walls.

Chen said the restaurant couldn’t open Tuesday because it had no water service. She had a sign posted on the door that Crab’s will be closed until the water is back on, and she was making calls to see who could help her with cleanup.

“It happened, nothing we can do,” she said. “It’s frustrating.”

Around the corner at Rosalita’s Cantina on Washington Avenue, a sign taped to the door told customers the restaurant was closed due to the break.

Other businesses on that street, including a cellphone retailer, appeared to be operating as normal, but residents in at least one apartment complex worried about their cars that had been submerged.

Skouby said building owners would likely be responsible for doing cleanup on their own properties, including in the parking garages. He said later the city water department will assess damage claims as they come in.

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Katie Kull covers public safety for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She previously wrote about local government for the Springfield News-Leader. In her spare time, you can find her cooking, riding horses or spending time outdoors.

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