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Minneapolis mops up water main break

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Federal Reserve building
The Federal Reserve building, at 90 Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, is surrounded by flooded streets on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 3, 2013, after a water main broke nearby.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

Crews are still on the scene Friday morning of a water main break in downtown Minneapolis. They worked all morning to remove an excavator that  tipped into the rushing flood of water from the damaged 36-inch pipe.

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It could be Sunday before water service returns to normal, according to Marie Asgian, superintendent of water distribution for the city. Along with the marooned piece of heavy equipment, a number of factors are extending the repair time. A major natural gas transmission line is very near the damaged water main, and crews were reluctant to move the backhoe for fear of causing a gas leak.

She also said that even when the pipe is fixed, it will take time to make sure it's been sanitized and ready for drinking water.

"We run a real strong chlorine solution into the pipe," she said. "We pull it out, de-chlorinate it, and discharge."

Crews also had to wait until nearly 5 a.m. for the gas main to be shut off, so they could start working on the site at Hennepin Avenue at North 2nd Street.

The break happened as crews were working on a six-story apartment building. The intersection remained closed Friday morning, although traffic is moving on Washington Avenue and on the Hennepin Avenue bridge.

The break released 14 million gallons of water through Minneapolis streets in a four-block radius.

Most of the water flowed down Hennepin toward the Mississippi River. In its path was the U.S. Post Office and its underground parking ramp, where some cars ended up floating in the water.

The Guthrie Theater canceled the evening's performance, the Mill City Museum closed its doors early and restaurants located several blocks away down Hennepin and Washington avenues also closed. Water lapped at plaza in front of the nearby Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Officials said they will be operating with essential staff only today.

City officials said water service has been restored to much of the area affected by the break -- stretching all the way to neighborhoods by Lake of the Isles. A city spokesman said late Thursday night that about a half-dozen buildings remain without water.

It isn't clear when Hennepin Avenue will reopen, but crews are still spreading salt on sidewalks and streets around the area, and Hennepin Avenue has been cleared of any standing water or ice.

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