Water main break in Houston strands drivers, closes schools

HOUSTON (AP) — The break of the main line from a water plant that supplies about half of Houston left drivers stranded on a flooded freeway and forced businesses and schools to close because of low water pressure on Thursday.

“This was a major, a major break,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a mid-afternoon news conference. “As you can see it produced a lot of water and it is still producing a lot of water.”

He said the water main had been valved off but water would continue to flow for the next six to eight hours.

The flooding submerged vehicles on an eastern section of Loop 610, a highway that circles the city. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted early Thursday afternoon that all occupants were out of flooded vehicles.

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There were no reports of injuries. Drivers in the low-lying city are used to navigating flooded roadways during storms, but the water main-caused flash flood caught many by surprise on a sunny day.

The fire department said on Twitter that it had rescued three people and searched and cleared 12 vehicles.

Houston officials said the 8-foot (2.4-meter) water main burst as a contractor doing exploratory work for a city water line project moved soil from the line. The city said contractors are in the area to isolate the break and make repairs.

Turner said water pressure was expected to remain low in the affected areas for the next six to eight hours.

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Gonzalez said some nearby businesses were reporting that they had no water service.