The water main break on N. 4th Street had been repaired by about 2:45 p.m. today, Columbus utilities officials announced. They had predicted the work would be complete by 5 p.m. Though water service has been restored to all buildings in the area, all drinking water must still be boiled until water tests come back with satisfactory results. City officials said they expect to repair all damage to 4th Street by Thursday afternoon.
Update: The water main break on N. 4th Street had been repaired by about 2:45 p.m. today, Columbus utilities officials announced. They had predicted the work would be complete by 5 p.m. Though water service has been restored to all buildings in the area, all drinking water must still be boiled until water tests come back with satisfactory results.
City officials said they expect to repair all damage to 4th Street by Thursday afternoon.
Downtown workers dealt with blocked streets, icy sidewalks and some closed offices this morning, after a major waterline break yesterday afternoon caused havoc around N. 4th and Gay streets.
The break proved to be difficult to fix in last night’s subzero conditions. City crews worked through the night and restored water service to most of Downtown by this morning.
Around 4 p.m. yesterday, the break heaved up a section of N. 4th Street and caused muddy water to flood the street and freeze quickly at the edges.
Police closed N. 4th Street between Broad and Long streets; Gay Street was closed between N. High and 3rd Street.
Both streets were reopened to traffic by 6 a.m. today, according to a Columbus police dispatcher.
Late last night, the city said those in any homes or offices on N. 4th between Long and Chapel streets should boil water until further notice.
Also last night, the state attorney general’s office said that only section chiefs, assistant chiefs and staff designated as essential should report to work today at its E. Gay Street and Rhodes Tower offices. In addition, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, citing the uncertainty of the water situation, decided to tell its employees in the Continental Plaza building at 180 E. Broad St. to stay home today.
And only essential personnel in executive state branches in the Riffe Center, the Rhodes Tower and the Department of Education should report to work.
The Columbus Museum of Art on E. Broad Street also is closed.
OhioHealth Grant Medical Center’s emergency room had to divert patients to other hospitals when it lost water pressure because of the break. That lasted for about four hours. The city was able to close some valves on lines and send pressure in that direction about 8:30 p.m.
Fixing the break was complicated by incredibly frigid conditions that allowed workers — though in cold-weather gear — to stay out for only about a half-hour at a time. Crews first had to mark off electrical, fiber-optic and other utility lines before they could begin to dig, said Greg Davies, head of the Columbus Department of Public Utilities.
Multiple crews were brought in last night and were being rotated in and out of the water.
“Brutal” was the polite description given by city utility workers who were trying to stem the ankle-deep flow of water while negotiating ice-covered sidewalks and streets.
Davies said the low temperatures likely caused the break, but he couldn’t say for sure.
Crews determined late last night that it was a 24-inch main waterline on N. 4th Street, south of E. Gay Street, that burst.
As of 9 p.m., the waterline was secured, dramatically reducing the amount of water flowing into the street, said Laura Young Mohr, a public-utilities spokeswoman. Water service had been restored for many buildings in areas outside of the immediate area of the break. It came back on at the Dispatch building on S. 3rd Street around 9:30 p.m.
“We were rerouting valves to send water in a different direction,” Mohr said. “Something like that causes a major gush — you are going to have a low-pressure situation for a wider surrounding area.”
While the city crews battled the water, Lisa Yarbrough and Craig Minow, both from Atlanta, perched on stools in the warm confines of Latitude 41, the restaurant and bar inside the Renaissance Columbus Downtown. There was a fire in the fireplace and the BCS title game on the TV.
What there wasn’t was water in the taps or toilets.
The Renaissance was offering, if guests requested, to find them accommodations at other hotels in the city and even provide transportation. A supervisor declined to say how many guests were moved to other hotels.
Yarbrough, a saleswoman in town to make a call on Ohio State University, knew the water was out. Minow looked up from the bouillabaisse he was enjoying. “Really?”
Both decided to tough it out.
“They have been awesome,” Yarbrough said of the hotel personnel, giving special kudos to the bartender. “And really, it’s not their fault.”
And, to be blunt, you could use the toilet, Yarbrough said. You just couldn’t flush.
Those who work and live in the buildings around ground zero of the waterline break also had to deal with some major problems.
The water flooded a garage underneath an office building at 45 N. 4th St. About 15 cars were pulled out of the basement and the three left were “totaled,” said Columbus Police Sgt. Nick Konves.
COTA sent a bus and the Division of Fire brought two mini-buses to the scene to ferry people out of the flooded, icy area.
Firefighter Scott Peer estimated that around 500 people were taken out of Downtown.
Saundra Kennedy, 58, who works at the AT&T building on N. 4th Street, was grateful that Peer was there to pick her up.
“I got curb service,” Kennedy said, who would have had to walk through water to meet up with her ride home.
As she looked out the bus window at the flooded street, Kennedy said, “It’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this before. I’ve been Downtown for a long time.”
Firefighters also evacuated some residents who live at a condo at 50 N. 4th Street. Columbus Division of Fire Battalion Chief Mike Fowler said some people elected to stay.
Eric Zanner was lugging a pack of bottled water to his condo on E. Gay Street, just down from the break.
“We have no water but we’re going to make a go of it,” Zanner said.