Watch CBS News

Water Main Break Spills 14 Million Gallons Of Water Downtown

Web Extra: Water Main Break Gallery

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A water main break Thursday afternoon left a number of blocks in downtown Minneapolis underwater, turning rush hour traffic into a freezing, wet mess, detouring city buses, closing multiple buildings and restaurants, and canceling plays.

The break was caused by a development project around 2:30 p.m. at Hennepin Avenue and North 2nd Street, according to city officials. While the details aren't quite clear, crews at the scene apparently struck and ruptured a 36-inch water main responsible for delivering water to a major section of the city. As a result, about 14 million gallons of water flowed out into the streets.

Update: Mpls. Water Service Restored, Safe To Drink

The break closed the Hennepin Avenue Bridge along with West River Parkway, which is beneath the bridge. Mayor R.T. Rybak tweeted that Public Works was on the scene shortly after the break, and he encouraged people to avoid the area if possible.

Harold Tellberg, who lives near the scene, said he knew something had gone wrong when he turned on his faucet and hardly any water came out.

"There was just a trickle, so I knew something was wrong," he said. "So I came outside to see what it was all about."

The scene was surreal: Hennepin Avenue looked like a river, and was reportedly covered in up to three feet of water.

Ryan Companies, a commercial real estate firm, issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying it is investigating the cause of the incident and that its subcontractor, United Sewer and Water, was working on an apartment project when the rupture occurred. The project site, located on the corner of Hennepin and Washington Avenues, was evacuated and no injuries were reported. The amount of water in the site also moistened the earth, causing some heavy machinery to tip over.

Many buildings in the area reported loss of water pressure or loss of running water -- some of those  affected were as far as three miles away, near Lake of the Isles. But by 9 p.m., city officials said water pressure had been restored to most residents and businesses affected by the rupture. Officials also said the water is safe to drink.

City crews plan to work overnight to repair the water line, so water can be restored to about six building that are still without water service. Those buildings are located along 2nd Street North, from 3rd Avenue North to Hennepin Avenue.

Despite the mess of the situation, local resident Mike McKinley was able to keep his sense of humor.

"Our values now for the condos are going to go up, 'cause we got ocean view, so I think the prices are going to just soar," he said.

And Closings

Government officials said that all Hennepin County government facilities in downtown closed at 4:30 p.m. The Hennepin County Medical Center, however, remained open.

The Federal Reserve says it is asking all non-essential employees to stay home on Friday. The Fed will continue operation, but it is asking employees who can work from home to do just that.

The Minneapolis Central Library said it closed at 4:30 p.m.  Check its website for information as to when it will reopen.

The Guthrie Theater  announced on its website that Thursday night's performance of "The Servant of Two Masters" was canceled. The theater advised anyone with tickets to call the box office at 612-377-2224 or email Friday afternoon to exchange tickets. The Sea Change restaurant, as well as the Guthrie building, will remained closed for the rest of Thursday.

The New Century Theater canceled "A Don't Hug Me Christmas Carol" for Thursday night.

Many restaurants in the downtown area also closed, including Be'Wiched Deli, Black Sheep Pizza, Fogo de Chao, Haute Dish, Kindee Thai, The Local, Lotus, Origami, Rosa Mexicano, Seven, and Spoonriver.

"All the water just shut down, it was really slow flowing," said Toom Nguyen of Louts. "We cook in the back, so we need that water flowing."

Roads Closed

City officials released a statement Thursday night saying the following roads are closed, and will be reopened as quickly as possible:

--Hennepin Avenue from Washington Avenue to Wilder Street (on Nicollet Island)
-- Second Street North from Hennepin Avenue to First Avenue North
-- First Street North from Hennepin Avenue to First Avenue North
--  First Street South from Hennepin Avenue to Marquette Avenue
-- West River Parkway from Fourth Avenue North to Portland Avenue South
-- First Avenue North is closed at Main Street (which normally flows onto the Hennepin Avenue Bridge)

The following blocks of street are only open to local traffic for the time being:

-- First Avenue North from Washington Avenue to First Street North
-- Second Avenue North from Washington Avenue to First Street North
-- Second Street North, from Third Avenue North to First Avenue North
-- First Street North, from Third Avenue North to First Avenue North

Bus Routes Detoured

Metro Transit said that multiple bus routes have been detoured due to the break. According the Metro Transit website, the routes are affected thus:

Route 4
Northbound: Hennepin, Washington, 3rd Ave. Bridge/Central, 4th St. SE, Hennepin Ave. E.
Southbound: Hennepin Ave. E,  University, Central/3rd Ave. Bridge, Washington, Hennepin

Route 6
Northbound: Hennepin, Washington, 3rd Ave. S, University
Southbound: 4th St. SE, Central, Washington, Hennepin

Route 6U
Northbound: Hennepin, Washington, 3rd Ave. Bridge/Central, University
Southbound: 4th St. SE, Central/3rd Ave. Bridge, Washington, Hennepin

Route 7
Southbound: 1st St. N., 3rd Ave. N, Washington Ave., Hennepin, 4th St.
Northbound: 4th St, Hennepin, Washington, 5th Ave. N, 2nd St. N

Routes 10 and 17
Trips are detoured due to traffic congestion in downtown Minneapolis.
Buses will not run on Marquette or 2nd avenues north of Washington, but instead will run on 3rd Ave. S.

Route 11
Northbound: Nicollet, Washington, 3rd Ave. Bridge/Central Ave., 4th St. SE, 1st Ave. NE, 2nd St. NE
Southbound: 2nd St. NE, Hennepin, University, Central/3rd Ave. Bridge, Washington

Route 61 (detour in both directions)
Central, Washington, Hennepin.

Route 141
Northbound: Hennepin, Washington, 3rd Ave. Bridge/Central, 4th St. SE, Hennepin Ave. E
Southbound: Hennepin Ave. E, University, Central/3rd Ave. Bridge,  Washington, 1st Ave. NE

Routes 671, 672, 667, 668 and 674
(Temporary downtown layover at 2nd St N/5th Ave N.)
Buses will travel on Washington, 5th Ave. N and 2nd St. N to the layover. From the layover, buses will travel on 2nd St. N, 10th Ave. N, and Washington Ave.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.