Enormous Water Main Break Floods Neighborhood

The water main break flooded cars and garages in the Birdland community

Roughly 2,600 customers including four hospitals had water service disrupted in San Diego Wednesday when a pipe burst and caused flooding that was waist-deep in some spots.

Eight garages were flooded by the rising water including one owned by Jack Horaniuk.

"My head is spinning," Horaniuk said while surveying the damage. "I'm not sure, not sure, frustrated it's going on."

While families sifted through mementos from decades, including wedding and baby photos, city crews worked to replace the broken 18-inch cast iron water main and restore water service to the area including Sharp Memorial, Sharp Mary Birch and Sharp Mesa Vista.

Water service was turned back on for most around 6 a.m. but pressure was low.

More workers were expected around 7 a.m. to do street repairs including replacing the asphalt and repairing a damaged sidewalk.

The break happened before 4 p.m. in the 2600 block of Meadow Lark Drive in the Birdland community, located between State Route 163 and Interstate 805, according to Arian Collins with the San Diego Public Utilities Department.

At Rady Children's Hospital, the outage in water service happened while one surgery was underway.  Surgical staff used bottled water and the patient was never in danger, spokesperson Ben Metcalf told NBC 7.

Elsewhere in the hospital, bottled water and hand sanitizer were used until water was restored approximately 90 minutes later.

The Sharp hospitals used emergency water storage during the outage.

Water was also out at Juvenile Hall. Portable toilets were delivered. Officials considered moving kids to another detention center until the water can be restored but decided against it, according to county operations. Court officials say juvenile court will be open on Thursday.

Meadow Lark Drive is closed between Nightingale Way and Hummingbird Drive because of flooding.

Streets have been pumped dry, but the mess and damage left behind for residents is going to take a while to sift through.

Customers living on the 2800 block of Meadow Lark Drive and 7900 block of Nightingale Lane were without water.

Aerial pictures showed residents putting up sandbags and trying to clear storm drains as water rushed through the streets. Others were seen floating down the street on rafts and boogie boards. Some cars parked on the road had water up to their bumpers.

The water department shut off the water just before 6:30 p.m.

“Usually, it takes on average an hour to shut down a main. If this is a large water main, we have to shut it down slowly. It could erupt in different places,” Collins said.

City crews used trucks with large hoses to suck up the water and cleared storm drains of debris. However, that did not stop garages and homes from flooding.

Residents with property damage from this water main break can file claims with the city but it was a nightmare for many in the area.

Video from the NBC 7 News Chopper shows water flooding through the area around the 2600 block of Meadow Lark Drive on Sept. 3, 2014.

There have been no other water main breaks in the immediate area in the past few years.

Since 2010, the city has paid at least $3.9 million for issues related to water main breaks, according to the city’s risk management department. In 2013 alone, taxpayers also shelled out $33,459 just for the cost of water that spilled into the street as a result of main breaks.

The city estimates 6.6 million gallons gushed from ruptured mains in 2013. By comparison, that’s enough water for a San Diegan to use an average amount of water for 205 years, according to the city’s estimated average daily use of 88 gallons per day.

The public utilities department is working on a $5.85 million program to replace and fix its water infrastructure. Officials hope to have all cast iron water mains replaced by 2017.

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