Water main break under busy road floods half-dozen Towson homes

Officials close 6 schools

rupture cause unknown

March 27, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Mary Yearwood spent yesterday mopping her mud-slicked kitchen floor on Kenilworth Drive in Towson. Next door, Andrea Mullen gave up on saving her 3-year-old living room carpet, which had become a squishy mess.

"The Berber is dead," she said.

An early-morning water main break in the Riderwood Hills neighborhood left a half-dozen homes with flooded basements and drenched first floors, and prompted the closings of six Towson-area schools and two courthouses. Part of Kenilworth Drive could remain closed for a week or longer as public works officials repair the main and fill in a Hummer--size sinkhole.

Baltimore County residents feared the worst when they learned that a 48-inch concrete pipe, buried 10 feet below the busy Towson road, had burst about 3 a.m. A more serious burst last week in Reisterstown had left as many as 200,000 people without running water.

In yesterday's disruption, water service had been restored by 6:30 a.m. to everyone except about two dozen residents in the 1000 block of Kenilworth, officials said.

It wasn't clear last night what caused yesterday's break, said Robert Murrow, a spokesman for the city Public Works Department, which operates the county's water system.

During last week's water main break, some students arrived at school - in some cases two days in a row - only to discover there was no water and they had to go home. This time, school officials made their decision earlier: Without information about when the water would be back on, they announced at 6 a.m. yesterday that six Towson-area schools without water would be closed, school system spokesman Douglas J. Neilson said.

Within thirty minutes, the water was back on, but the announcement had already been made. Carver Center for Arts and Technology, Towson High School, Dumbarton Middle School, and Ridge-Ruxton, Rodgers Forge and Stoneleigh elementary schools stayed closed.

Baltimore County courts were in a similar bind. Circuit Judge John G. Turnbull II, the administrative judge, decided early yesterday morning to shut the circuit and district courts on Bosley Avenue in Towson because of low water pressure.

Other county government operations remained open, and few, if any, businesses were affected. Some merchants at the Shops at Kenilworth weren't aware of the latest water main break. That mall and other Kenilworth Drive businesses have remained open and can be accessed by using West Road, off the York Road exit of Interstate 695.

For residents in the 1000 block of Kenilworth, it wasn't a lack of water that was a problem. It was too much water.

The Yearwood family lost a computer and was worried about a treadmill, train set and thousands of dollars worth of tools kept in the basement.

On the ground floor, family members knew they would need to replace the living room carpet and likely their kitchen tile floor, which they had been planning to do anyway, Jeff Yearwood said.

"All in all, it's really not that bad," he said. "Just a pain to clean up."

In the first few moments after the water main break, however, Jeff Yearwood said he wasn't sure what his family was dealing with.

"To come from a dead sleep at 3 in the morning and hear firefighters pounding on your door and look out to see water rushing down the street was pretty unbelievable," he said.

Eventually, water filled their basement and seeped up to cover their first floor.

Mullen, their next-door neighbor, described the early-morning scene as chaotic.

As she struggled to round up her two large dogs and confine her cat to an upstairs bathroom, firefighters urged her to evacuate.

And when water started flowing out of a first-floor toilet "like a mushroom," she said she knew it was time to leave.

"There was just nothing you could do to stop the water," she said.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes about 5 a.m., and nearly all immediately began cleaning up.

Sun staff writers Stephanie Hanes and Sara Neufeld contributed to this article.

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