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Water Main Break Causes Large Sinkhole In Castro Valley

CASTRO VALLEY (KPIX 5) -- A thoroughfare in Castro Valley was closed Wednesday morning after a water main break caused a sinkhole that trapped a vehicle, Alameda County fire officials said.

A 12-inch cast iron water main running under the street broke at some point early Wednesday, pumping out water and mud that overwhelmed the already full storm drains on Somerset Avenue. The break sent water pouring down towards houses on the Conrad Court cul-de-sac before crews could clear that drain.

Area resident Mark Crawford heard about the sinkhole from a friend.

"So I got a call from my friend on his way to work and he says, 'Yeah, there's a little mud puddle in front your house.' I didn't think much of it because of the storm, explained Crawford. And my wife looks out the window and she's like 'Oh my God! Come look at this! There's water shooting like 3 feet up in the air!' And then about 15 seconds later, here comes this SUV and plows right into the sinkhole."

The county fire department wrote on Twitter at 8:43 a.m. about the closure of Somerset Avenue between Santa Maria Avenue and Redwood Road because of the main break.

The driver of the vehicle that got stuck in the sinkhole was able to safely exit with the help of firefighters, and the vehicle was removed by 9:25 a.m., fire officials said.

"Firefighters arrived at the scene just as she happen to get stuck in the sinkhole. They were able to assist her out of the vehicle and she was able to walk her son to school," said Alameda County Fire Department spokesperson Aisha Knowles.

East Bay Municipal Utility District crews are working to fix the water main break, according to the fire department.

By around 11 a.m. Water was restored to most customers in the neighborhood with the exception of the homes right beside the break.

"These houses back here may not have utilities for a while depending on how much they have to clean out to get that fixed," said Crawford.

East Bay MUD officials said that they were unsure if the storm had anything to do with the break. Crews said they expected to be working on finding the leak, fixing the pipe and refilling the hole for at least the rest of the day.

Shortly before 2:30 p.m., crews had cleared away the rocks and mud to expose there area where the break happened.

Workers will cut away the damaged section of the water main and insert a new segment of 12-inch pipe to replace it before refilling the whole and fixing the street.

The flow didn't get into neighbor Nathan Whitehead's home but it went right through his backyard. The debris line was visible in his garage.

"Yeah, you can see the mud. It pushed everything. It was pretty powerful water," said Whitehead.

Crews said they believe the pipe was installed back in 1902, 116 years ago.

The work crew was able to fit a replacement section of PVC pipe and by 5 p.m. were filling in the hole that the work had left. But the street was still covered in a layer of mud from the incident that will hopefully be washed away by more rain.

"The drains were already getting a pretty good hit from the rain this morning. And then with the water main, it overflowed every drain that could be hit," said Whitehead.

There was still no projected time when Somerset Avenue would reopen to traffic.

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