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Water main break turns Charles Street into raging torrent

Heavy flooding along the entertainment zone of the 1700-1800 blocks of North Charles.

the charles river

The River Charles. Water gushes down Charles Street at North Avenue, one block south of this morning’s water main break.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

The bursting of a water main at 20th and Charles streets turned a three-block section of Baltimore’s premier street into a torrent of fast-moving water, damaging buildings and threatening to disrupt service on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

At about 7:30 this morning, a 60-inch pipe in the middle of Charles and 20th broke, buckling the pavement and shooting up a geyser of water.

A gushing stream of city water rapidly descended Charles Street past North Avenue to Lanvale Street, where it has been dropping down an embankment into Amtrak’s Penn Station yard.

With strong currents and bristling waves formed where the water is disrupted by cars or curbing, Charles Street looks more like the worst-storm scenario predicted for Hurricane Sandy last week than a typical water main break.

The Brew, on the scene, noticed water gushing into the entrances of buildings along the 1700, 1800 and 1900 blocks of North Charles, with ponds stretching for half a block east along 20th Street, Lafayette Avenue and Lanvale Street.

Rapids form around a parked car in the 1800 block of North Charles next to the Bohemian Cafe. This picture are taken at 9 .a.m. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Rapids form around a parked car in the 1800 block of North Charles next to the Bohemian Cafe. This picture was taken at 9 a.m. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Powerless to Stem the Flow

City workers were on hand at the scene of the break but seemed powerless to stem the flow at 9 a.m. this morning.

A full compliment of city fire trucks and emergency equipment were also on hand at North Avenue and other locations.

So far, no fires or injuries have been reported.

Traffic has been halted along North Avenue between Maryland Avenue and St. Paul Street.Northbound No. 3 and 11 buses are now running on Calvert Street.

Asked about this latest of several big water main breaks, a firefighter near North Avenue shrugged his shoulder this morning and said, “Aging infrastructure.”

Here are some pictures of the mess:

Water rockets out of the 60-inch broken water line at Charles and 20th streets this morning. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Water rockets out of the 60-inch broken water line at Charles and 20th streets this morning. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

The scene on 20th street where water from the broken main has backed up toward St. Paul and north to 21st Streets. The water flooded a vacant building and several parking lots. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

East 20th street where water from the broken main has backed up toward St. Paul and 21st streets. The water flooded a vacant building and several parking lots. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Briana Hamlett and Devon Horton were waiting for a bus to get to school this morning, but were stranded at Charles and North amid a tide of rushing water. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Briana Hamlett and Devon Horton were waiting for a bus to get to school this morning, but were stranded at Charles and North amidst the tide of rushing water. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

A Fox 45 reporter reenacts the media's knee-deep-in-the-water Sandy coverage at Charles and Lanvale streets. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

A Fox 45 reporter reenacts the media’s “knee-deep-in-the-water” Sandy coverage at Charles and Lanvale streets this morning. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

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  • ianlogsdon

    Anyone know how far south the water is flowing?

    • baltimorebrew

      To Lanvale and Charles, where the vertical rise of the bridge over Amtrak diverts the water flow into storm drains at present (12 noon).

      This morning, the water was flowing into Amtrak’s service road below Lanvale St. – and close to the railroad’s main southbound track.

  • David Kennedy

    sigh.  Tapas is one of our fav places to eat.  This’ll set them back I would guess.

    We were at Liam’s on North Ave last night watching the returns for a bit.  Looks like we cleared out with hours to spare.

    • baltimorebrew

      Liam’s was just enough uphill from Charles. Tapas appears to have light water damage.

      We’ll be be publishing a followup shortly.

  • http://twitter.com/rkassman Rachel Kassman
  • artc12

    Clearly our city’s future is being impaled on completely misplaced priorities!  Aging infrastructure for basic public utilities like water and sewer should not have to undergo such continued neglect and snail’s pace of repair while city dollars get wasted on window dressing like the Grand Prix.

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