DETROIT (WWJ) – A neighborhood on Detroit’s west side is dealing with massive flooding after a water main break.
The situation unfolded Tuesday morning in the area of Buchanan and McKinley streets. The flood has spread over several city blocks near Warren Avenue and I-96.
Traffic reporter Bill Szumanski was over the scene in WWJ’s Chopper 950.
“The water is now gushing out of a large hole in the road here in front of B&S Liquor and Grocery, so much water that it’s now flooding out on, and I’m not kidding, a five-square block area,” he said. “Because the neighborhood slopes to the south, the water is running to the south, at least five blocks south by three blocks wide. This entire neighborhood is flooded out.”
Raw video shows water main break.
Early in the afternoon, water was still pouring out of the 30-inch water main. While water receded in some areas, the roads remained slushy. In some cases, the slush was creeping as high as the bottom of cars and trucks, and vehicles were getting stuck in the flooded streets
A heavy-duty tractor with a fork lift was called to the scene to free a Detroit police cruiser that was caught in the flood. Detroit firefighters also rescued a woman stranded in her vehicle.
“We are watching numerous cars ignoring what’s happening here, driving through the water and getting stuck. I’m now counting six vehicles,” Szumanski said.
Some homeowners in the area reported water leaking into their basements.
Detroit Police Commander Steve Dolunt said it’s one of the worst water main breaks he’s ever seen.
“We’ve got a foot to two feet of water south along McKinley. We have cars that are literally frozen, and I mean frozen up to the door. It’s a mess,” he said. “If you think you can make it through the water, you’re insane. I thought, and I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, I thought I could do it and I barely got through. So it’s bad, real bad.”
Travis Keen, who works a half-mile away from the water main break at Vinewood Street and West Grand Boulevard, said his workplace is “completely surrounded by water.”
Betty Harper, who lives on McKinley Street near Magnolia Street, said her road has turn into a river.
“Oh, I’ve never seen anything like it,” the 83-year-old said. “Water is over the entire street, all the way up on the curb, and under the viaduct the water is way up, too.”
Barron Warren escaped from his vehicle as it was swallowed up by the water.
“I was driving down Roosevelt and I made a right turn on Selden. I just seen a little bit of water and the next thing I know, there was water everywhere, coming into the car. I just wanted to get out of the car before I drowned,” he said.
Darryl Latimer, Deputy Director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, said it’s too early to tell what caused the break, but crews are making every effort to fix the problem.
“What we’re trying to do is stop the flow first, and that’s what we’re doing by isolating the main and shutting the valves, and then we’re going to try to clear out and try to help folks that may be stranded in their cars,” he said.
Latimer said some of the city’s water mains are from the 1800s and because of their age and the freezing temperatures, they are very unpredictable.
“We’ve got very old steel pipes and the infrastructure, when you have this cold weather and you get the water temperatures in the pipes as well as the freezing outside, the pipes just start to give way at the weak point,” he said.
Latimer said it could take hours before the area is cleaned up. No injuries were reported.
It’s the second major water main break in Detroit in just five days. Last Friday, a neighborhood near Gratiot and Conner was flooded after a 16-inch water main break. With temperatures in the single digits, crews worked against the clock to free vehicles stuck in the flood before the water froze over. A front loader was also brought in to rescue stranded motorists.