4 p.m. Update: Crews are repairing a major water splitter on Western Avenue; Traffic shift during Saturday | News

A cut in a 20-inch water main just before 10 a.m. Friday between Bond Street and Old Salem Street on Western Avenue, Route 127, reduced water pressure across the city and flooded more than 100 feet of road and sidewalk.

It also created a crater that could swallow a car between Windsor Lane, Stage Fort Street, and the sidewalk crack where the fracture occurred.

Mike Hill, director of public works, said at about 3 p.m. Friday that crews had dug all the way to the broken pipe. It was estimated that water would be restored in the late afternoon to the isolated area that had lost water for several hours.

Public Works said customers on the following streets won’t have water until the repair is complete: Western Avenue from Essex Avenue to Old Salem Road, Stage Fort Avenue, Hough Avenue, Anchor Lane, Windsor Lane, Crowell Avenue and Beachmont Avenue.

Hill said the road would not be fully repaired on Friday due to the massive amount of work required. Incoming traffic into the city is diverted on Western Avenue around the main waterway to Hough Avenue, which runs adjacent to Stage Fort Park; Outbound traffic is not affected.

At 4 p.m., the city said traffic in both directions would be rerouted on Saturday starting at 7 a.m. until the curbside ramp could be repaired.

William Gillis, the city’s facilities superintendent who was at the scene with Mayor Greg Verga around 12:30 p.m., estimated that the outage spilled 800,000 gallons.

The break was contained about 45 minutes after it was reported, with Public Works asking customers to be patient as the water pressure returned.

The force of water from the broken main road twisted the sidewalk on a portion of West Avenue, filling the road with sand and gravel, and causing a pothole.

Gillis said Rose Lupicolo, the secretary of public works, called him at 9:52 a.m. after hearing about a major water cut in the scanner.

This helped enable people to quickly alert the city to what was happening, Verga said.

“Our phones started going off in the office and then we got a text from Mike (Hill) saying there was a big water outage,” the mayor said.

Verga added, “We were getting calls from East Gloucester that there was no water or water pressure. There was no water in City Hall. Like I said, it all happened very quickly.”

“Daytime people can see what’s going on,” Verga said. “People in bed didn’t necessarily have to turn on their sinks to see that there was no water pressure.”

Gillis said public works crews had the outage under control by 10:36 a.m.

When asked what could happen, Gillis said, “It’s old” in regards to cutting tubes.

“More than 100 years,” Verga said of the cast-iron water mains. Verga said it would be better if the break happened on a summer day rather than mid-December.

If the break had occurred at night, Gillis said, the water would have flowed for another hour while the response muster.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Gillis said.

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