Awater line at the corner of Eighth and Fir streets in downtown Medford cracked late Wednesday morning, shooting a swift stream into the street that closed a block of Fir Street for about four hours.
The 8-inch cast iron pipe, installed in 1960, likely cracked because of temperature variations that made the ground shift and crack the pipes, Medford Water Commission officials said.
"It's just that time of year," said Rich Calhoun, Water Commission operations supervisor. "It kind of makes the ground shift. That's all it takes sometimes."
The rupture was first spotted by a Medford Fire-Rescue engine crew as they drove past. The rush of water flooded the block of Fir Street between Eighth and Ninth streets, near the KOBI-TV studio.
"We're talking thousands and thousands of gallons (of water)," said Medford Fire-Rescue battalion chief Wayne Painter.
No adjacent businesses flooded during the event, but a section of sidewalk in front of 102 N. Fir St. had to be dug up to reach the pipe.
Water Commission officials said they were able to isolate the leak without interrupting water service at nearby businesses. Most of the water drained naturally. Officials waited until other utility companies scoped out their own gas and power lines, a safety precaution before crews started their dig for the damaged pipe.
Larry Rains, Water Commission manager, said the damage is referred to as a beam break, in which the split occurs longitudinally down the pipe.
"In cast-iron pipe it can happen," Rains said. "It does happen when you have those temperature differences."
Crews replaced an 8-foot section of the damaged pipe with a new section made of ductal iron. No cost estimate was immediately available, but Rains said the most expensive part of the repair will be re-pouring the portion of concrete sidewalk crews had to dig up to get at the line.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.