Officials Assess Damage after Maryland Water Main Break

Dec. 24, 2008
Nine people had to be rescued from the frigid water, including one young child

Cabin John, Md. - During the height of the morning rush on Tuesday morning, terrified motorists found themselves facing a flood of water, a sudden tsunami as millions of gallons of water burst from a 5-1/2 foot water main under River Road. Before anyone could react, fast-moving water engulfed the road and several cars were trapped by the rapids.

Twenty-four hours after the first flood hit, officials are finally getting a look at the destruction wrought by the massive main break as they toured the scene Wednesday morning.

County Executive Ike Leggett and Governor Martin O'Malley and other state and local politicians toured the site Wednesday morning. "It's an example of the truth and the fact that we need to invest in our infrastructure in order to maintain it," Gov. O'Malley noted. And Executive Leggett remarked, "I was horrified, because of the potential threat of life and death here. We need to resolve this so we can be sure that these kinds of thing do not happen again."

A truck filled with rescue workers from a nearby fire station came upon the scene, and the emergency crews went to work. The swift water rescue team that responded is widely considered the best in the country at handling situations just like this and deployed by both water and air to get the motorists to safety.

Nine people had to be rescued from the frigid water, including one young child who was airlifted to dry ground by helicopters along with several other drivers and passengers. Others trapped in their cars were helped into boats and taken to the "shore" of River Road.

Some water is still running from the main, which is still submerged underneath the flooding water; Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission crews worked through the night on Tuesday and are still working Wednesday on trying to get the situation under control. Power and water were already restored to all area customers by Wednesday morning.

River Road is closed indefinitely, but foremen on some crews has said they believe the repairs can be completed by Friday or early next week, working around the clock and through the Christmas holiday.

The rupture left a 50 by 30 foot hole that filled with water, which crews will carefully pump out once they have shored up the sides of the road so that the water does not cause further damage.

"It's definitely not your typical repair," explains WSSC representative Lyn Riggins. "We've had about seven or eight trees come down just as a result of the water washing all the soil away. We pulled about a 70 foot sycamore tree out of the hole this morning and cut that up."

Republished with permission from WJLA-TV

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