Thousands of homes and businesses were disrupted on Tuesday after millions of gallons of water flooded the streets in a Shelby Park neighborhood. The flooding occurred after one of the oldest and largest pipes in the city burst, damaging nearby property.
The 124-year-old pipe had a 48″ diameter, and carried water from a treatment center in Crescent Hill to Iroquois Park. The pipe was put in the ground in 1893.
Firefighters rescued one school bus driver and two people stranded in a van. Fortunately, the van was not carrying any students.
Streets quickly turned into rushing rivers, with water as deep as six feet in some areas near the break. Dozens of cars were nearly swallowed by the water, as the flow swept away garbage and debris.
Louisville Water Co. sent employees door-to-door to talk about potential claims, as many vehicles appeared to be damaged in the flood. A company spokesperson also said they were aware of at least a few homes with flooded basements, although there will likely be more.
The bust pipe sent water gushing through the streets for more than seven hours. By late afternoon, water company employees had shut off more than 20 valves in the area, transforming the rushing river to a gentle flow.
The large pipe burst with so much force, it caused the pavement to buckle and water pressure to plummet in some areas of the city.
Students at St. Xavier High School were sent home at 11:00am. All Humana offices in downtown Louisville closed down for the day. Norton Healthcare and Jewish Hospital delayed elective surgeries because of the pipe burst.
Norton Healthcare said it expected services to return to normal in the evening as water pressure returned to normal levels.
Customers in downtown Louisville as well as those east and west of the break were affected the most by water pressure issues.
According to Louisville Water Co., some valves can take as many as 900 turns to close. The water company said the water main was turned off as of 6:15pm on Tuesday.
The company has no official estimate of the damage, but several streets were affected. Clean-up could take up to a few weeks.
The water company says it deals with pipe breaks on a daily basis, but most go unnoticed because they affect small pipes. Large pipe breaks can cost more than $1 million to fix.
Crews will need to inspect the pipe before the water company can begin making any repairs. It is still unclear whether the pipe will be replaced or a pipe lining will be injected into the old pipe.
The utility is lining another 48″ pipe underneath the Eastern Parkway. That pipe was installed in 1930, and caused the “Tyler Park waterfall” in 2014.
The water company doesn’t expect the drinking water in homes to be affected by the pipe burst. Backup systems are in place for these types of scenarios.
Late Tuesday, the utility urged 4,000 residents in Shelby Park to boil their water before drinking it.