- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A ruptured water main that shut down Allentown Road near Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George’s County Monday has been repaired, but the road probably will not reopen until tomorrow night, officials said yesterday.

Officials with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said the road had to be rebuilt and repaved after the water main break — likened by some to an erupting Yellowstone National Park geyser — caused a partial cave-in between Old Branch Avenue and Allentown Way on Monday.

But county officials said rainy weather that’s been forecast for today could delay until tomorrow evening the repaving work necessary to reopen the road.

“At this point in time, they probably will not be able to open the road up until late or after Thursday,” said Susan D. Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation.

“The road probably will be closed through Thursday because we are expecting severe rain,” she said. “If they don’t get rain, then it could open much sooner.”

Until then, motorists can use Allentown Way and Old Branch Avenue as detours, county officials said.

A contractor broke 20-inch and 8-inch water mains about 1:30 p.m., officials said.

“Water was bubbling out,” said John Rozario, 40, owner of a 7-Eleven store near Allentown Road and Camp Springs Avenue. “Suddenly, there was too much pressure. Then it got high. Then it looked like Yellowstone.”

Water erupted for about 90 minutes until crews shut it down to repair the lines that supply water to 76 customers.

The pressure of the water caused the asphalt on the road to crack and, as a result, created a hole, measuring about 4 feet deep and about 20 feet in diameter, in the center of Allentown Road. Officials immediately closed the road.

By 10 a.m. yesterday, the water mains had been repaired and water service was restored to customers, including Mr. Rozario’s 7-Eleven and the Sunoco gas station across Allentown Road. Road-repair crews with shovels and tractors were filling the hole and capping it with gravel mixed in blacktop tar.

Other crews were digging trenches in the mud along the sidewalks on the north side of Allentown Road. A new gas pipeline was to be installed.

Nearby stood a “Ditch Witch” tractor, the motorized 4-inch-wide drill mounted on the front that caused the break as operators dug down 41 inches in Allentown Road and pierced the mains by mistake.

“The most damage was to our business,” said Mr. Rozario. “Coffee time is in the morning,” when his store caters to those who work in the area.

Sunoco owner Ashar M. Mian, 53, was anxious for Allentown Road to re-open.

“Only had five customers all day,” on Monday, he said. “We have only had two customers” yesterday before noon.

The gushing water sideswiped the brick wall and windows of State Farm Insurance Co. offices on Allentown Road. Other than washing out a couple decorative plants near the rear of the building, it did little other damage.

“It got the entry a little wet,” said Melvin Harnsberry, a State Farm agent.

Water seeped through a window and dampened the carpet in his office, Mr. Harnsberry said.

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