Crews Tend to Busted Water Mains in Frigid Chicago Weather

With heavy machinery punching through the concrete - workers from Chicago's Department of Water Management searched for the source of the water main break here near the intersection of 63rd and Pulaski Friday.

“As soon as it’s identified we will be able to make the repair and have the water restored," said department commissioner Randy Conner.

Early Friday morning Sky 5 flew overhead as crews--contending with frigid temperatures--used open flames on frozen pipes, a method officials say only professionals should use.

“They were using those fires to be able to unthaw some of the valves, so that they could shut the valves off, because the ice is so thick," Conner said. "As well as to be able to defrost some of the catch basins so that water can go in.”

By mid-day a gaping 12-foot hole exposed gushing water at the site.

“Because it’s so cold out, it’s freezing and it's creating dams, which creates another problem with water flowing onto the sidewalks and creating other hazardous situations," Conner said.

A number of businesses near the break were forced to shut down--while others stayed open

“It’s something that happens in the city," said El Pollo Real manager Edgar Gamboa. "The good thing is that they’re taking care of it. So, we just have to wait.”

City officials say extremely cold temperatures coupled with shifting earth and aging water infrastructure have contributed to the breaks.

Since Dec. 27 the city has identified some 28 water main breaks, half of which have been dealt with.

Crews worked for hours to control and repair a water main break on a hydrant lead in the 4600 block of West Diversey. Officials say it won’t be the last.

"We will be facing more breaks. The weather--it’s cold out," Conner said. "I mean, that’s the reality of it. It’s nothing that we haven’t experienced before.”

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