DULUTH, Minn. (WCCO) — Parts of downtown Duluth looked more like a river instead of city streets overnight.

A water main break sent water flowing down Superior Street, closing and damaging the street and causing some flooding at nearby business.

It’s a huge mess of ice and water in downtown Duluth, but fortunately, city crews had the main repaired and service restored by mid-morning.

It was a New Year’s day surprise for a city that’s had its share of flooding over the past year. A 16-inch water main buried under Superior Street burst open by the frost.

“Most of our breaks are in the 6-to-8-inch pipes, that’s the majority, but when a bigger one goes it makes a bigger mess,” said Eric Shaffer, Duluth utilities engineer.

The 125-year-old cast iron pipe spewed out an estimated three million gallons over 90 minutes, before city crews could shut three valves and isolate the break.

It left behind a gaping hole in the street and sent a muddy mess into Carrie Brown’s Electric Fetus store.

“And water from the store floor above came through the ceilings, it was raining in the washroom,” she said.

By late afternoon, most of the mess was gone, as fans dried up wet flooring and service crews pressure washed icy sidewalks.

These water main breaks are pretty common in Duluth. They average about 140 a year but few are of this magnitude.

Duluth sees its share of breaks because of the cold climate — the freeze and thaw cycle. That actually moves the soil underground and breaks cast iron pipes — especially old pipes. With 400 miles of watermain in Duluth, half of it is more than 80 years old.

Gallery: Water Main Break In Duluth

Bill Hudson

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