UPDATE: The section of broken pipe was replaced and water turned back on by early morning, said Jerry Davis, a water distribution officer for the city. He said work crews continued into the morning cleaning up dirt and debris.
ORIGINAL STORY: A water main break flooded a downtown San Luis Obispo roadway Friday evening, cutting off water to homes along one block of Mill Street, possibly through the night.
A 14-inch cast iron water main, installed in 1942, broke deep under the pavement at the corner of Broad and Mill streets at about 4:30 p.m., said Jerry Davis, a water distribution officer with the city of San Luis Obispo. Water was shut off to homes in the 700 block of Mill Street while repairs were being made, he said.
At 8 p.m. it was still uncertain how long repairs would take. “It’s going to be a long night,” Davis said.
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When he arrived on scene shortly after getting a call at 4:30 p.m. about the break, water was just bubbling up out of the pavement, Davis said. That changed about an hour later. “Then all of a sudden I felt something in the street,” he said. “It just blew and all the pavement and soil came up.”
Workers opened up several fire hydrants while water was shut off on the affected block, to prevent a build-up of water pressure in connecting water mains that could cause them to break, too, Davis said. Watching all that water run down the street during a drought was painful for residents.
“I have three phones and they were all ringing,” Davis said. “But we had to do it.”
Davis said rust and minerals inside the pipe was broken loose and could back up into other water mains, causing water to appear cloudy and red as it comes out of the tap throughout the downtown area for the next day or so.
“I wouldn’t drink it because it probably won’t taste good,” he said, “But it’s safe and you can use it to shower.”
Across the street from the water main break, Mission Prep High School was holding its 31st annual Royal Dinner and Auction fundraiser. School officials persuaded the city crew not to shut off water to the school, so the bathrooms would still be usable.