(photo by Kevin Herrera)

WASHINGTON AVE — A 10-inch water main burst near Washington Avenue and Second Street Tuesday afternoon, sending torrents water rushing into underground garages, flooding parked cars, city officials said.

The cause of the break and the extent of the damages was not known at presstime, however, several residents were seen bailing water from their BMWs and Volvos as city workers rushed to pump out the water and lay new pipe.

“The way it was coming in and gushing in was just horrific,” Anna Littles said of the water. “I was surprised the water rose as high and fast as it did in the garage.”

Residents were advised to contact their insurance companies and City Hall’s Risk Management Division, which handles claims for damages. The division can be reached at (310) 458-8910. A liability claim form can be downloaded at www.01.smgov.net/finance/risk/index.htm.

Gil Borboa, the water resources manager for City Hall, said the water main, made of cast iron and installed in 1967, ruptured around 3 p.m. Crews were able to shut off the water about 30 minutes later and set up several pumps to clear the water from garages. Only one apartment building seemed to be without water following the shut off.

Crews planned to have the ruptured main repaired by midnight on Tuesday.

“Sometimes it is hard to tell what caused the break,” Borboa said. “It could have been a hairline fracture … .”

Changes in the weather or small seismic shifts could have aggravated a fracture, causing the pipe to burst, Borboa said.

“These mains are under some serious pressure, around 100 [pounds per square inch] go through that line,” he said.

A typical home has a PSI of 40 or 50.

To make matters worse, some residents in the area were also without power because of upgrades being made by Southern California Edison. Power was expected to be restored by 6 p.m. with Edison using a generator until a failed conduit is repaired today. A section of Wilshire Boulevard from Second Street to Third Street was blocked off because of the installation of a high-voltage cable, said Mark Olson with So Cal Edison.

“I feel like I’m in the 18th century — I’ve been reading a book by candlelight. It changes everything,” said Victoria Holt. “It’s really made me think … . If we have a disaster, what haven’t I got? I don’t think we’re prepared.”

Residents said the one positive was that neighbors banded together to get cars and other belongings to dry ground.

“I don’t even know what to think about this,” said Pat Minahane. “But I guess what I’m really appreciating is all the neighbors helping each other.”

Carlee Jensen contributed to this report.

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