Water main break sinks roadway, floods basements

Tina Diablo was awakened at 3 a.m. Tuesday to find she had a lake in the basement of the apartment building she shares with her brother and three roommates.

A broken 100-year-old water main under Montrose Avenue had been spewing water for an hour and a half, flooding nearby buildings and carving out an 80-foot wide crater in the road.

Diablo's building at 4406 Wolcott Avenue, less than a block from where the cast-iron pipe gave way, had 17 inches of water in the basement where her brother and two friends live.

"Clothes, shoes, pictures and all their belongings were floating around the basement," said Diablo, a 25-year-old nurse who lives on the building's first floor. "Their beds and computers are also ruined."

The break caused a collapse that left a hole in Montrose Avenue 15-feet deep and about 80 feet across (video), leading police to close off several blocks and forcing at least 10 businesses to close, according to Barrett Murphy, managing deputy commissioner of the city's water management department.

The CTA briefly closed the Brown Line Montrose station and rerouted buses, as employees from the city's water police and fire departments worked to get things under control.

Officials had not yet determined the cause of the break Tuesday, but water management spokesman Tom LaPorte said it may have been weather related.

"The changes from warm to freezing cold, to cold to warm can cause weaknesses in pipes," LaPorte said.

Murphy estimated that repairs would take at least a week.
Meanwhile, workers kept warm by popping into a running CTA bus parked nearby. An undamaged Starbucks in the area supplied free coffee.

Jarren Barren, owner of the Beans and Bagels coffee shop located under the Brown Line, said his shop will be closed at least through Wednesday.

"Our basement had about four feet of water in it until it was all pumped out," said Brown, who spent most of the day Tuesday trying to clean things up. "This morning boxes ... cups, paper records, receipts were all floating about. The basement is basically ruined."

Gene Schulter, 47th ward alderman, said he had never seen such damage. 

"One of our main concerns is to get the businesses up and running" he said.

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