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Water Main, Steam Leak Closes Street In Midtown

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Plumes of steam filled a Midtown block just a block from Central Park on Monday, prompting road closures and alarming many.

As CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported, witnesses said it was a haunting sight as the intimidating white cloud rolled down 58th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues with people running for cover.

"It was pretty scary because I didn't know what was going on," said witness Alejandra Lopez. "So I started recording, then they started to tell people to leave the area. Then they blocked it off. Yeah, it was a bit scary."

"When I got here, I saw a little steam coming out already," added witness Jimmy Morales. "It was a very small amount, but it started around seven, and then it got bigger."

The Department of Environmental Protection said a water main leaked in front of 106 W. 58th St. around 9:30 a.m., setting off a reaction with an underground steam pipe.

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Towering plumes of blinding steam shot into the air.

The steam also shot right into Joel Reed's Midtown apartment.

"The bedroom was full of steam," Read said. "When I went down to the lobby, the lobby was full of steam and it was condensing on the walls."

Officials emphasized that there was no explosion involved in the incident.

"There was no steam pipe explosion. As you can see, it would be a lot worse if there was an actual explosion," said FDNY Deputy Chief Nicholas Corrado. "But again, we're dealing with high-pressure steam that's in the street here in Manhattan and just some water that might surround the pipe, and to compromise it would create a small steam condition, which it did."

The steam was later shut down, Con Edison said.

Witnesses said the steam leak was terrifying and messy.

"There was like so much white smoke, and then I started like getting a lot of like wax – this wax substance – on my glasses and on my clothing," Lopez said.

Hazmat crews tested the substance and the air for any contaminants including asbestos. Their gear was carefully removed and bagged.

The DEP said it has not determined the exact location of the leak, what caused it, and if the age of the infrastructure was a factor.

According to a report by the Center for an Urban Future, about 1,000 miles of the city's 6,785 miles of water mains are over 100 years old, which makes it no surprise that there have been at least 400 water main breaks in all but one year since 1998.

There were 562 water main breaks in 2015 alone.

Some workers were out of their businesses for hours and some motorists couldn't their cars out of a garage, but no one was hurt, 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported.

The leak caused the street to buckle, and it remained closed to traffic while repairs were made. Crews were still hard at work on repairs as late as 9:30 p.m.

Click here to check current traffic conditions.

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