16-inch water main break floods part of University Village

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SEATTLE — The first calls came in at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday — a broken 16-inch water main at University Village shopping center directly underneath the 45th Street viaduct.

Witnesses were amazed by the power of the water.

“I looked up to see one of the chef behind the counter with his hands on his face, just oh my God, because we had a clear view out the window,” Stephen Hamilton said.

UVillege Watermain breakHamilton was having lunch at Blue-C Sushi when the pipe ruptured.

“I turned around to see what he was looking at and there was water shooting up from the ground over half way up that height there and before we knew it the whole parking lot was flooded,” Hamilton said.

Within minutes crews with Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle City Light and the Seattle Fire Department rushed to the scene and immediately knew they had a big problem on their hands. SPD was called in to shut down the 45th Street viaduct because of concerns that the water may have undermined the structure. Water was a foot deep in the U-Village parking lot; about 100 cars were stranded until the water receded.

Finally, by nightfall, with the water shut off, crews turned their attention to pumping out all the water and getting repairs started.

Seattle Public Utilities crews restored the service at University Village around 2:10 a.m. Wednesday. Officials said the broken section of pipe will be examined, and for water users in the area to expect some brown water to run in their tap for a minute or two before it is cleared up. Officials urged residents to avoid washing their clothes until the water color was cleared.

While unappealing, the water is still safe but people might want to wait until it clears before filling up drinking glasses from the tap.

The pipe was about 80 years old — the average age for cast iron piping around the city. Officials are still unsure why it broke.

Here is a cellphone video of some of the flooding, provided by view Nick Duffy: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-i7IBI3-cJNLXZjRE5xYkxvTTQ/edit?usp=drive_web&pli=1

No shops were shut down or damaged by water. All in all, the consensus is things could have been a lot worse.

“You could have had businesses flooded out here. You could have had cars flooded out here. It could have been a lot worse. That water causes damage. It’s much like fire; the more it spreads the more damage it causes,” Moore said.

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