Workers rush to stop the gush
Water from a break on Fort Pitt Boulevard cascades into the "bathtub" section of the westbound Parkway East early Thursday morning.
The broken surface of Fort Pitt Boulevard as crews work to shut off the flow.
Water runs along Wood Street from the early morning break.
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The Parkway East "bathtub" section, which got its nickname after repeated flooding from the Monongahela River, was swamped from another direction on Thursday.
A 12-inch water main buried at Fort Pitt Boulevard and Wood Street ruptured in the bitter early morning cold and sent water cascading onto the highway and nearby streets and sidewalks and into basements of buildings.
Crews not only had to shut off the water; they found themselves custodians of a rapidly forming, multilevel skating rink in 6-degree weather. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation workers took over one of the three inbound parkway lanes to mount a continuous salting operation that kept the other lanes open. But traffic eventually backed up from there to the Squirrel Hill Tunnels.
Above them, Pittsburgh public works crews heaved shovels full of salt from the back of a dump truck onto sidewalks and streets near the affected intersection. Workers at the Monongahela Wharf could only stand and watch, as the parking lot's only entrance was blocked off.
Fort Pitt Boulevard was closed from Smithfield to Market streets, and Wood Street was closed between the Boulevard of the Allies and Fort Pitt Boulevard. A large section of pavement heaved up near the broken main.
All lanes of the parkway reopened by 9 a.m. Crews expect to keep Fort Pitt Boulevard inbound closed between Smithfield and Wood streets through this afternoon, and Wood Street remained closed from the Boulevard of the Allies to Fort Pitt Boulevard, closing access to the Mon Wharf.
Equitable Gas dispatched crews after a strong aroma of gas was detected, and Duquesne Light also sent workers to check for equipment damage, but neither utility reported any service outages.
Melissa Rubin, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, said the break was reported at 4:30 a.m. Crews were able to shut off the flow by 6:30 a.m. By noon, a contractor had carefully excavated the broken section of pipe, taking care not to disturb a 20-inch gas main nearby.
The rupture in the water line was 8 to 10 feet long, Ms. Rubin said. Crews worked much of the night to repair the break.
At Point Park University, where most students were still on holiday break, four or five students were evacuated from the Conestoga Hall residence on Wood Street. Electricity and heat to the building were turned off as a precaution after water flooded the basement, spokeswoman Terra McBride said. The students were moved to the lobby of the Boulevard Apartments on the Boulevard of the Allies.
A small amount of water also entered the university's West Penn Building but quickly drained out, she said.
Several Port Authority bus routes had to detour via Smithfield Street and the Boulevard of the Allies to reach Wood Street.
Crews worked to pump water from utility vaults and buildings. At L.D. Astorino & Associates on Fort Pitt Boulevard, several inches of water poured into a portion of the basement. Workers set up a pump to remove it and operations at the architecture firm were not affected, corporate records manager Gary Link said.
"It's really not that big a deal," he said.
No customers were without water service, Ms. Rubin said.
First Published January 4, 2013 12:00 am