VIDEO: Janesville water main break sends water, debris shooting into air

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Neil Johnson
Sunday, March 16, 2014

JANESVILLE—Janesville city water crews were working Sunday evening to repair a water main break near downtown that blew a 20-foot-wide hole in the street and sent a geyser of water 30 feet in the air.

Police and city water utility crews were called to a 12-inch water main break at the corner of South Parker Drive and East Van Buren Street about 1 p.m. Sunday for reports that a geyser of water was shooting out of the broken main.

The break knocked out water in an area four blocks around the break, Janesville water department crew foreman Mike Fosmoen said. Crews worked to shut off the main, and hoped to have it repaired with water running later Sunday night, he said.

At the scene, water was shooting at least 30 feet in the air from the main break, which was under the street. The pressure of the water caused the street and part of the sidewalk to blow out in a 20-foot-wide crater around the break.

The crater grew as water continued to shoot above the treetops, landing in a deluge on the roof and the side of a building that formerly housed a nursing home on the corner of South Parker Drive and East Van Buren Street.

Water and rubble from the blowout poured down the hill on both East Van Buren Street and St. Lawrence Avenue. Police crews blocked off streets around the break as crews worked to shut down the main.

Fosmoen said the geyser likely was caused when a large piece of the street fell against the broken main and partially plugged it like a finger over a garden hose, creating pressure.

“It's lucky that happened, or this break could have collapsed almost the whole street,” he said.

He said it's likely that repeated ground heave from a recent spate of thawing and freezing temperatures caused the main to snap. The harsh, cold weather this winter has caused the ground to freeze deeply and has placed stress on local water laterals and mains, officials have said.

Fosmoen said crews were still trying to learn how much water was lost in the blowout. He said the geyser was a one-of-a-kind occurrence he's never seen.

“You hardly ever see anything like this. Never in 35 years have I seen anything like it. Never,” he said.

No one was injured, officials said, and there are no plans for a boil order, although residents could notice some rusty discoloration to their water, which Fosmoen said is harmless.

Last updated: 1:23 pm Sunday, March 16, 2014

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