Two water main breaks in downtown San Diego Sunday caused major flooding overnight, prompting closures on two major freeways and causing traffic delays during Monday's morning commute.
It took hours before city crews could shut off the water sometime between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., allowing thousands of gallons of water to spew into the streets of the East Village neighborhood and onto Interstate 5.
The first water main break at the intersection of 11th Avenue and A Street was reported at about 3:30 p.m., and the break on the ramp from SR-163 to Fourth Avenue was reported just before 7 p.m., the San Diego Police Department said.
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By Monday morning, construction crews could be seen working on a massive hole along 11th Avenue between A and B Streets to find the source of the leak. Meanwhile, water was shut off to customers in the area.
Shortly after 3 p.m., CalTrans said that workers were pumping water off the freeway and expected to work throughout the evening commute to remove water from northbound I-5 near 1st Avenue.
Water Service Restored, Boil Water Notice Issued for Second Break
Water service was restored Monday evening to many downtown customers after the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department repaired a break on the 76-year-old, 16-inch diameter cast iron pipeline near 11th Avenue and A Street.
Crews are still trying to repair the second break near Balboa Park off State Route 163. There is no estimate for when the repairs will be completed.
The break in the 62-year-old, 24-inch diameter reinforced concrete pipe didn't leave any customers without water service.
As a result of both breaks, the city was prompted to issue a boil water notice for the water customers at nine locations:
- 545 Laurel St.
- 2302, 2350, 2395 and 2402 Sixth Ave.
- 1210 11th Ave.
- 1280 12th Ave.
- 1011 and 1110 A St.
City staff has distributed boil water notices to those nine addresses and is making sure they know how to make their water safe to drink. State regulators will determine how long the boil water notice will be in effect based on daily testing.
The incident was causing traffic delays on major San Diego freeways and city streets. The following roads were closed:
- Southbound SR-163 connector ramp to northbound I-5 and 4th Avenue
- Northbound SR-163 connector ramp to northbound I-5
- Northbound I-5 from the SR-163 connector to Hawthorne Street
- Southbound I-5 north of 1st Street is partially closed
- 11th Avenue north of B Street
- A Street from 9th to 11th Avenues
According to Caltrans, just after 8 p.m., crews were able to reopen the 1, 2, and 3 lanes of Northbound I-5, although the 4 lane and the Hawthorn Street offramp remained closed.
There were also several traffic lights out in the surrounding blocks. NBC 7 hasn't been able to confirm that the outages were caused by the water main break.
City officials say the breaks happened as road crews were working in the area. The cause of the water break was not immediately known, SDPD said.
It wasn't known how many water customers were affected by the shut-off and no estimated time frame was given for when water would be restored. Water wagons for customers to receive water are at 11th Avenue and B Street and at Ash and 10th Avenue, city officials said.
Karen Brown, the owner of a Shell gas station near one of the breaks, said she had no choice but to shut down all the pumps once water dripped into the underground fuel tanks.
"Obviously cost us a lot of money every time we have to shut down and I have to have somebody come suck all the water out of all the pumps," Brown said. "It's interesting trying to watch them all try to figure out how to shut it off. Nobody's had success yet."
The public is asked to avoid the area if possible while work continues, city officials said. The causes of both breaks are under investigation. Caltrans will determine when freeway lanes impacted by the water main breaks are reopened, but drivers are encouraged to plan for alternative routes during the morning commute.