PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – Some one-million gallons of water per minute spilled from a broken water main late Saturday morning and through a northeast Portland neighborhood, a Portland Fire & Rescue spokesperson says.
Firefighters set up a perimeter around NE 21st to 30th from Skidmore to Killingworth, which is where they say the water was flowing, and offered sand bags to residents to protect their property.
Authorities, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, spoke at a news conference Saturday afternoon and gave additional details regarding the break. They said crews first arrived on scene around 11:30 a.m. and said their primary concern is to keep people from going into the water.
This is NE Prescott and 24th Ave. A fire official told us the water’s been rushing a million gallons a minute. They’re asking everyone to stay away from this area. We’ll have more information after a press conference at 2 pic.twitter.com/8Ii62EVpHm— Audrey Weil (@audreytweil) March 16, 2019
“We cannot stress enough: stay out of the water,” Wheeler said. “There are hazards in the water...let people do the work they need to do to address the situation as quickly as possible.”
The Portland Water Bureau says it hopes to shut off water to the 30-inch water main as soon as possible.
Pacific Power crews also responded Saturday afternoon, de-energizing power lines and assisting with repair efforts. The agency at one point reported more than 12,500 power outages in the area.
A Portland Water Bureau spokesperson at the conference Saturday called the break “a rare event” and warned people to beware brown and muddy water.
The bureau later completed tests on the water and determined there are no health risks, but said residents can choose to drink bottled water instead.
Kovatch referred the break as “catastrophic”.
He said the cast iron main carries water from major storage reservoirs across the city.
“When a main that size fails, we first see a huge volume of water and it has reverberations through our storage facilities and throughout the system where you may be observing dirt water through the city,” Kovatch said. “These things are fairly normal when we have a main break of this size.”
Kovatch said the bureau has crews scattered throughout the area working to shut off water supply.
Portland Fire & Rescue crews Saturday afternoon helped evacuate 12 homes.
Kyle Delamarter lives on Northeast 24th Avenue and estimates the water in front of his house is about two feet deep.
"Look out my front door and everybody starts screaming there's water flowing down 24th Avenue," Delamarter said.
Officials say it may have been age or a number of other factors that caused the main to break. They're asking people to stay out of the water, as they are concerned about unstable ground, sinkholes, and possible sewage mixed into the mess.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation says anyone is welcome to take sandbags they have provided at Northeast 26th and Mason, but asks people to bring their own shovels.
Agencies at the conference asked for the public’s patience as they work to contain the situation.
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