Hall floods, forcing closure of art exhibit

Water main break affects Convention Center

February 13, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Convention Center officials offered little explanation why an exhibit hall flooded yesterday afternoon, forcing about 500 visitors and exhibitors to flee brackish water spreading across the floor.

Security guards placed chains and padlocks around the doors of the African-American Art Expo after water covered the floor and artists piled their paintings and posters on tables to protect them from the inch-deep water.

Convention Center staff refused to answer questions about the flooding.

Tony White, Mayor Martin O'Malley's press secretary, said the flooding was caused by a water main break under the Pratt Street sidewalk. The water main, about 18 inches in diameter, is operated by Comfort Link, a utility that supplies chilled water to the Convention Center.

"The Convention Center will be open [today]," White said, adding that insurance adjusters would study liability for the flooding.

Artists and visitors walked up a flight of stairs and left the building quietly. The exhibit hall that flooded is located on the Sharp Street side -- the western edge -- of the building.

"We can't even get to our art or belongings we left behind," said Annatrica Riddick, an exhibitor.

"I looked around a corner and saw water coming and coming -- and still coming," said Job Gibson, a sound contractor who helped set up the amplification system at the art event.

Visitors to the free art show, which opened Friday, said an announcement over the public address system instructed them to leave the basement-level hall about 2 p.m. yesterday.

A show organizer, who declined to give her name, said the water took less than 15 minutes to rise and cover the floor.

Curtis Grayson, a Newark, N.J., artist, was one of those forced from the exhibit hall. "All of a sudden a customer told me there was water coming in from the back of the hall," he said.

Grayson picked up boxes and other materials on the floor, placed them on a table and left.

"It was more than a shame that this happened," said Sarena Jordon of Baltimore, who was attending the exhibit.

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