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A river in the streets

A broken water main gushed up to 500,000 gallons in about a half hour under six houses and into three businesses on West Main Street Monday morning.

"There was a river going down between our houses," said Ed Jones, a 63-year-old who lives on Jeanette Avenue. "It went under our house, and now we've got to remove the insulation."

Jones said that according to his surveillance camera, the water started flooding the area at 9:04 a.m.

G's Bento, at West Main Street and Lewis Avenue, was sitting in the middle of a pond after water filled the parking lot. Crews spent the morning and into the afternoon pumping the water away from the tiny building across from Black Bird Shopping Center.

Two other businesses, West Main Furniture and Fantastic Beauty Salon, located in a nearby building at the corner of Jeanette, also had water damage.

"The water just went right in there," said building owner Ann Hamilton. "It was all muddy." Luckily the front showcase area in the furniture store didn't get flooded, she said.

Ken Johnson, Medford Water Commission operations superintendent, said a 14-inch, cast-iron line that was installed in 1952 broke under Jeanette, possibly caused by shifting soil under the roadway and decades of use.

Johnson said his crews estimate up to a half-million gallons escaped over about 30 minutes. That's enough water to fill about 25 average in-ground pools.

Crews found the area where the break occurred and shut off the water, Johnson said. Within an hour, crews were digging up the street and pumping the water away from the broken main.

"Medford Water Commission crews responded quickly and isolated the break in a reasonable amount of time," Johnson said.

By Monday afternoon, the water main was repaired and crews were flushing the lines before restoring service to homes.

Johnson said affected homeowners were expected to see water at their taps by Monday evening.

A broken main happens periodically under Medford streets, but it doesn't usually send water toward so many houses and businesses. Johnson said the water commission took charge of the initial cleanup work.

ServiceMaster crews hopped from house to house, pumping water from underneath buildings and assessing the damage as worried residents looked on.

"I came outside, and it was like almost a foot and a half deep in the middle of the street," said Jeanette Avenue resident Daniel Stone. "The road started to erupt and just started falling apart."

The 32-year-old's Honda Civic was swamped, and he frantically tried scooping water out with his hands. After barely being able to start it, Stone managed to get the sputtering car across the street to a dry area.

Water rushed under his house, soaking insulation and the wood beneath.

"It's bad under there," he said.

Jeanette resident Jose Hernandez, who had six children at his house, used a folding card table to prevent rushing water from coming in the front door. He said the water filled the space under his house and soaked the insulation.

"Everything is water," he said.

Tera Atchley, who lives on Lewis Avenue with her four children, watched as crews put sump pumps under her house.

"At first I was panicking a bit," the 26-year-old said. But the water never entered her house.

Atchley said she was unaware of the flooding issue when the main first broke.

"The fire department knocked on our door and told me what was going on," she said. "I went to the backyard and it was completely flooded."

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Water from a broken water main on Jeanette Avenue floods G's Bento Monday on the corner of Lewis Avenue and West Main Street. [Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta]
Medford Water Commission crews work to uncover a broken water main that burst Monday beneath Jeanette Avenue, flooding several homes and businesses in the area. [Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta]