Trapped Philly Shoppers Rescued From Sudden Flooding - NBC Bay Area
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Trapped Philly Shoppers Rescued From Sudden Flooding



    Millions in Damage When Water Main Erupts in East Falls

    Businesses at a large strip mall in the East Falls section of Philadelphia were flooded when a 48-inch water main broke, dumping millions of gallons of water into the stores and parking lot. Some shoppers were rescued by firefighters during the mid-day surprise catastrophe. (Published Friday, Nov. 4, 2016)

    A massive flood swallowed a parking lot of a large strip mall in the East Falls section of Philadelphia on Friday, with numerous vehicles under water.

    A 48-inch water main erupted shortly before 5 p.m. in the lot outside a ShopRite at Roberts Avenue and Fox Street, according to the fire department.

    It is the third major flood at that same location since 2014. The water main there also broke in June 2015 and January 2014, according to previous reports. Just take a look at this story NBC10's Randy Gyllenhaal reported in June 2015:

    Sandy Brown, whose husband Jeff owns the ShopRite as well as several others in the Philadelphia region, told NBC10 that the flood last year caused 6 inches of water damage inside the store. During that flood, more than seven million gallons spilled out. The shopping center is built on the site of the former Tastykake factory and is a few blocks away from the Philadelphia Water Department's Queen Lane Reservoir.

    Brown said this flood may not be as bad as last time, but that water was still inside the store.

    "It's very frustrating the water department has not been able to fix this and it keeps happening," Brown said.

    The water gushed at such a fast pace that the intersection and much of nearby Roberts Avenue was under water.

    Dozens of vehicles were trapped in the deep water. Firefighters could be seen rescuing shoppers.

    A water department spokesman said last year that there are four 48-inch mains in this location.

    Philadelphia is home to the oldest water infrastructure in the country, with some cast iron pipes dating back to the 1800s, although the average pipe is 67 years old, according to an NBC10 investigation in 2015.

    Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug explained at the time that the city has some "very specific local conditions" that make it difficult to know ahead of time which pipes are about to burst.

    The water department does have "listening" crews that go out with giant stethoscope-type tools and literally listen to more than 1,000 miles of underground pipes. They use a point system and the pipes with the highest scores -- determined by factors such as age, location and proximity to electricity -- are set to be replaced by 2020.

    But there's no public list to know where the most vulnerable pipes are located. The city told NBC10's Mitch Blacher last year they didn't want to hand over the information because it might compromise home values in some neighborhoods.