Crews fix water main break in South SF


The five-foot wide pipe burst along Elk Court near Magnolia Avenue shortly after 9:45 a.m. Friday, causing a fast stream of water to shoot about 60 feet in the air.

One firefighter called it the "mother of all water main breaks," and up close, it looked like a geyser spewing water in two directions.

Below it, people were being rescued from their homes. The speed of the water combined with the mud and rocks made it impossible for some residents to get out.

"The entire house was flooded," said resident Michael McNamar. "I had to open the back doors of the garage to allow it to flow back down to where the river was in the back of the house anyway."

For three hours, residents watched the geyser spew uncontrollably at the top of the hill while the water got closer and closer to their doorsteps. Not knowing how long it would take to shut off the water, some neighbors took matters into their own hands.

"I'm worried if it's going to come behind these homes," said Bebe Phelps. "I don't know what's going to happen."

Laura Finch had made plans to go shopping on Black Friday and then see the Christmas tree lighting, but today's water main break changed that.

"Gotta keep an eye on my sister's house in case they have to evacuate," said Finch.

The pope that broke was a 12-inch feeder line connected to a larger five-foot main pipeline.

"These are two lines that bring the regional water from Hetch Hetchy to 26 wholesalers that get water from us, and they deliver to homes here on the Peninsula and the East Bay," said Maureen Barry with the San Francisco Public Utility Commission.

Both lines had been recently replaced by SFPUC. It's not clear what caused the break.

Water had to be diverted before the line could be shut off. Sky7 HD captured the moments utility crews finally did manage to shut the water flow off.

Meanwhile, the massive amount of water had undermined an empty lot directly behind the pipeline, sending mud and rocks down the hill.

"This has been a nightmare project around here for many months, and we were glad to see it finished and get our street back," said Jim Gibbs. "And now this."

The clean up on the street began immediately. Six homes near the feeder line were inspected by city engineers.

"We had inspectors evaluate the homes to check the integrity," said Tyrone Jew with SFPUC. "They determined that it was safe to return. Everyone is free to come back into their home."

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