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Flood water replaced by ice in Manchester neighborhood

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 08. 2018 11:13PM
A sheet of ice (at bottom) marks a high water mark from Jane Street which flooded in Sunday morning's water main break in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Residents of a downtown neighborhood returned to their homes Monday and assessed the damage caused when a broken water main flooded streets and homes.

Manchester Water Works was still making repairs Monday morning at the corner of Jane and Lowell streets, where a 12-inch pipe ruptured and released a torrent of water that filled eight basements and forced evacuations on Sunday.

“It was a blowout,” Philip Croasdale, director of Manchester Water Works, said Monday.

Residents were cleared to return Monday after spending the night with family, friends or at an emergency shelter set up by the American Red Cross.

The densely packed neighborhood of single- and multi-family homes is just east of Manchester High School Central,

Frances Giroux, who lives in an apartment at the corner of High and Jane streets, said her home on the second floor was fine but her car was flooded. She and her grandson were parked at the lowest point in the neighborhood — the block of Jane Street between Nashua and High. Water pooled several feet deep there on Sunday.

“We don’t know if they’re going to be salvageable or not. We’re waiting for them to be towed away,” Giroux said of the vehicles.

Giroux stayed with relatives Sunday night and returned to find a chunk of ice extending from the pedals of her 2014 Kia Sportage to the driver’s seat.

“There was solid ice in the other one, too,” Giroux said. “I’m thinking that they’re both totaled, but not positive yet.”

Mayor urges caution

Mayor Joyce Craig said water service was restored to all affected residents around 1 a.m. Monday.

“We are continuing to assess the damage and provide assistance to all those impacted,” said Craig. “All the affected roads are passable now, and all affected sidewalks will be walkable and passable by (Tuesday). However, please take caution of the ice still on the sidewalks and roadways. I am incredibly thankful to our dedicated city and state emergency personnel who quickly jumped into action to help Manchester residents in the area.”

According to Craig, five individuals sought shelter at Manchester High School Central Sunday night as a result of the water main break.

Craig said Red Cross personnel were at the Manchester Health Department offices through the day Monday providing aid to those affected by the water main break. As of Monday night, they had provided assistance to 14 families, said Craig.

Pumping out basements

Gary Hawkins returned to his house at 240 Lowell St. with a load of supplies, including a small pump for any remaining water in his basement. He also had several large bags of rock salt he hoped would help melt the ice, some of it several inches thick, now covering his yard.

Hawkins, who lives about a block downhill from the ruptured pipe, was bracing for what he may find in his basement. He was able to peer in through a window and see his new water heater appeared to be dry. He was hoping the same was true of the furnace, which he also replaced last month.

“I’m so happy to see that water heater is safe,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins’ basement was one of eight in which firefighters used sump pumps to clear the water.

District Fire Chief Al Poulin said firefighters had all of the basements pumped out before midnight Sunday, preventing the water from freezing and causing further damage.

“In some areas the basements were pretty full, so it took a while to get these places pumped out,” Poulin said.

Firefighters also helped evacuate the neighborhood on Sunday morning, while Manchester Water Works and the Department of Public Works cut off the water supply to the broken pipe.

Giroux credited the firefighters with helping get her daughter, who is on medical oxygen and fighting pneumonia, get out safely.

“The firemen were fantastic with her,” Giroux said. “They even warmed up the car before they helped her downstairs and made sure the car she was going in was very warm.”

No history of leaks

The cast-iron water main was installed in 1900, but was cleaned, lined and reinforced in 1987, Croasdale said. It has no history of leaks.

“It wasn’t like we were having problems on that stretch,” Croasdale said.

He said the pipe was about 4½ feet deep. Although the frost level is about 3 feet, the cold can find weak spots in a water main, and traffic on the road can cause further damage.

“The frost is deep. Things are going to happen,” Croasdale said.

He said gushing water dug a cave 25 feet long beneath streets. Repairs were slowed because caution was required; gas lines were adjacent to the water main, he said.

He said the regional average for pipe breaks is 15 breaks for every 100 miles of pipes. Manchester, which has 500 miles of pipes, averages 30 to 40 a year.

“We’re well under the average,” Croasdale said.

Union Leader Staff Writers Mark Hayward and Paul Feely contributed to this report.

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