After a water main broke, transport and commercial activities were halted in the Cow Hollow Neighborhood of San Francisco, creating a massive sinkhole and chaotic scenes.
Residents of the area woke up on Monday morning to see a flooded city and a giant hole in the middle of the intersection between two major streets.
Just before midnight on Sunday, the 16-inch broken underground pipe had let out large volumes of water, which caused the pavements to crack and cave in. Not long after dawn, social media was awash with videos of the debris-filled flood waters flowing through the city and into homes.
By afternoon, there were dozens of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) workers on the ground trying to contain the situation. Reports have it that the broken pipe, made from cast iron, was 74 years old, just like many other pipes supplying water to neighborhoods in the city.
“It was the sound of the car alarms that initially woke me up, and then when I came outside to see what was going on, the water,” said Nicole DeMarinis who lives quite close to the scene of the sinkhole. “It was just rushing water coming through, it was insane, this whole thing was filled with water.”
The enormous sinkhole appeared at the intersection between Fillmore and Green, two of the busiest streets around. The flood from the burst pipe, which flowed for hours, also affected businesses and commercial activities in the area. Neighboring Filbert and Union Streets were also heavily flooded.
A restaurant owner, Kingston Wu, told newsmen that he got to know about the incident through multiple texts from staff over the night. He visited his business to discover a situation worse than he had thought.
“Before coming in today, I thought that maybe this was a one-day turnaround,” he told newsmen. “After coming in, walking the floor, looking at the neighbors, I feel that it’s optimistic for us to think that we can reopen on Friday.”
The incident also disrupted the service of another water main, which wasn’t too far away, causing customers of the affected to experience service interruptions.
Workers also had to deal with a threat to the city’s gas supply after fallen pavement had rested on a 4-inch gas line that had bent from the impact. Workers from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company were called upon to remove the slabs and examine the line for any gas leaks.
There are over 1200 miles of water pipes under the management of the SFPUC, many of which were installed over 100 years ago. Even with an ongoing replacement program for weak and aging pipes, there are still over 100 water main breaks every year.
After completing the water main repairs and clearing out the debris and wreckage from off the streets, the fill-up and repair of the damaged road will be next. Workers weren’t sure how soon the repairs would be completed and the streets back to normal.