A water main break from a plant that supplies about half of Houston left drivers stranded on a flooded freeway and forced businesses and schools to close because they had no water or low water pressure on Thursday. "This was a major, a major break," Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a mid-afternoon news conference, the AP reports. Turner said the line had been isolated on both ends, but until it fully drains, it will continue to spew water, though at a diminishing rate. He said it's expected to take about six to eight hours for it to completely drain. The flooding submerged vehicles on an eastern section of Loop 610, a highway that circles the city. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted that all occupants were out of flooded vehicles. The fire department said on Twitter that it had rescued three people. There were no reports of injuries.
Drivers in the low-lying city are used to flooded roadways during storms, but this flash flood was a surprise on a sunny day. "The water came out very, very quickly," Turner said. Officials said the break happened around noon as a contractor worked to repair a leak in the 8-foot line, which is 35 years old. "The closer they got to where the leak was occurring, removing the soil, the line simply erupted," he said. The mayor said that restaurants without water must stop operating and that he anticipates a boil order going into effect. Because of the break, all county courts will be closed Friday. The Houston Independent School District canceled after-school activities Thursday and shut schools Friday so maintenance workers can inspect its facilities. Turner said the break shows the need for improvements. "When you are dealing with an aging infrastructure, you are going to have these main line breaks," Turner said. “And in some cases they are major arteries and can cause a major disruption."
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