Detroit — City officials say they expect to have repaired by Friday night a water main that created a flood, trapping people in their cars.
Police riding in the scoop of a massive front end loader rescued two drivers from vehicles frozen in the water Friday morning on the city’s east side at the intersection of Gratiot and Conner, near Gethsemene Cemetery.
A press release from Mayor Mike Duggan’s office said Gratiot was being repaired and reopened in stages.
Duggan thanked city employees who fixed the water main “despite the extremely cold temperatures,” as well as police and others who helped the stranded motorists. The temperature recorded at nearby Coleman A. Young International Airport was as low as 1 degree Friday morning.
Three cars and a minivan ended up stranded in the mini-lake that formed after the water main — a 16-incher — broke at about 5 a.m
Crews from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department got the call about 5:30 a.m., according to Deputy Director Darryl Latimer. The water flow was stopped just before 9 a.m.
“Once they arrived, they determined it was a bad break,” Latimer said.
The last car caught in the ice reportedly got around heavy equipment blocking the intersection and drove south into the flood. By the time the driver realized his mistake, it was too late. His engine cut out, leaving him stranded.
At about 8 a.m., a gigantic front end loader carrying two Detroit police officers in its massive scoop approached the minivan. After a few minutes of conversation, the officers pulled a female driver from the van and into the scoop.
Police also removed a driver from another vehicle. A third vehicle was empty.
Temperatures and severe winter conditions are taking a toll on water mains, according to Latimer.
“We’re dealing with a high number of breaks,” Latimer said. “In January 2013, we saw around 300 breaks. In January 2014, we dealt with over 500.”
Duggan called those figures unacceptable, but he’ll possibly have no control over the matter depending upon the outcome of negotiations between the emergency manager and suburbs over control of the system. He called Friday’s incident “a reflection of the problem.”
“There’s no doubt we have significant problems in the water department,” Duggan said. “You have a significant deferral of capital expenses that is causing water main breaks in number that are not acceptable. All I gotta do is look outside my office and see the repair that’s been going on for a couple of weeks.
“I’ve been completely dissatisfied with the response to running water leading to vacant buildings.”