A repair to a leaking water main went awry and flooded part of the Radisson Hotel Duluth Harborview, one of downtown Duluth's landmarks.
Duluth Public Works Director Jim Benning said that crews Wednesday were trying to fix a small leak in an 8-inch main on Superior Street that served the hotel with drinking water and fire protection.
"In the process of doing that repair, a joint let loose, and that's what flooded out," Benning said.
The rushing water filled a tunnel between the hotel and the Duluth Public Library with a foot of water, he said, and poured as much as four feet of water into the hotel's sub-basement.
The flooding prompted Minnesota Power to cut power to the hotel and forced guests to move out. The power outage stopped pumps that handle steam service to heat the hotel, and phones there aren't working, either.
"The electrical boxes were in the basement," Benning said. "That's going to be a priority, for that property owner to get that electricity back on and get the steam back in there and keep the building from freezing."
At least two transformers will have to be replaced, according to a supervisor with Superior Construction — the company that was doing repairs when the water main broke.
Heat for the hotel is provided from a steam plant in the Canal Park area, and is working, Benning said, but it isn't clear if the steam condensate pumps in the hotel can be quickly restarted and restore heat to the building.
Benning said a contractor has been working Thursday to get the water service restored, and it should be back up by the end of the day. Duluth Public Library officials said they were able to open on time Thursday morning, and that there was no damage to any of the library's holdings.
Benning said the pipe running from the main to the hotel was installed in 1968; after being repaired twice already, it was leaking.
"It's the climate we live in and the age of the infrastructure," Benning said. "It doesn't last forever."
City crews dealt with small water pipe breaks in a couple other locations, but it's not clear yet whether they were related to the major break at the Radisson.
It's the fourth high-profile water main break in Minnesota this winter. On Jan. 1, a water main broke on the eastern end of downtown Duluth, flooding another section of Superior Street and damaging several businesses. Two days later, a contractor apparently ruptured a pipe in downtown Minneapolis, flooding the Gateway area. A month after that, a main in St. Paul's Lowertown neighborhood broke open, prompting a flood and drinking water warnings along W. 7th Street, parts of the West Side and downtown.