(CNN) -- A huge water main burst under a road in the suburban Baltimore community of Dundalk, Maryland, Friday, sending muddy water erupting over neighborhood streets and down highway ramps, officials said.
Muddy water envelops the community of Dundalk, Maryland, on Friday. Many were left without power.
The 72-inch main was shut about two hours after it ruptured, Baltimore County Chief Executive Jim Smith told CNN.
No injuries were reported, Smith said, but he urged residents to "shelter in place" and not to go into the knee- to chest-high water under any circumstances.
"This is not a game," Smith warned.
Authorities set up a command center near the site of the break and swift-water boat rescue teams were standing by, he added. See water main break damage »
Resident David Johnson said he felt helpless as he stood outside his house and watched the dirty brown water creep up his lawn and approach his front door. It stopped inches away and his basement stayed dry. The worst part now, Johnson said, is the smell.
"Like sewage," he said.
Shannon Woerner was at home in nearby Essex, Maryland, when he heard the news about the water main break -- and the call for boats.
He loaded his kayak in his truck and headed to the scene.
"I just wanted to see if I could help," he said. Woerner said he assisted by ferrying car keys and other items across flooded streets to people who were cut off from their homes by the water.
Standing at the corner of Court and McShane streets, Mike Pell, 34, watched the water slowly recede after the main was shut.
Water covered the wheels of his pickup truck.
"My basement's done," he said, pointing to his shoulder to show the height of the water inside, where he and his fiancée had their bedroom. "All of our clothes are ruined," he said.
He managed to get his two children, ages 2 and 3, to a dry area on the first floor of the house. "Now I wonder who's going to pay for this. We don't have flood insurance -- this area doesn't flood," Pell said, shaking his head.
Samantha Hansley, 21, could only watch from a dry hill and wonder if her truck would survive the deluge. It sat a block away in 2 feet of water. Hansley and her boyfriend had been driving out of the floodwaters when they stopped to try to help some stranded drivers. "Our truck just died," she said.
A manager at the Box and Save grocery store not far from the break site said the entire parking lot was flooded.
Cathy Geisler said customers were still in the store Friday afternoon when police came to tell everyone to evacuate, except for essential personnel.
"We had customers, we were still doing business, then the electricity went out and we escorted everyone out of the store," Geisler said.
She and another manager stayed behind in a building with no power. As she spoke on the phone with CNN, Geisler said police had come back to tell them to leave immediately and she abruptly hung up the phone.
Aerial video from CNN affiliates WMAR and WBAL showed a collapsed roadway with massive amounts of water exploding over the area. Entire neighborhoods had flooded streets, and many residents were evacuated, authorities said.
Eric Braughman, who lives on one of the flooded streets, told CNN he had "thought something was up" with the water Thursday when his faucets discharged brownish-orange water.
"My wife didn't give the baby a bath because it didn't look safe," Braughman said.
Nearly 1,000 customers were without power, according to Baltimore Gas and Electric Company's Web site.
The main break is part of a larger issue with failing infrastructure in many U.S. cities, said Kurt Kocher, a spokesman for Baltimore's Department of Public Works.
Kocher cited two other huge main breaks in the Maryland and Washington D.C. area that were started from the same type of pipe that burst in Friday's incident.
"This is a national infrastructure crisis," Kocher said.
CNN's Alec Miran in Dundalk, Maryland, contributed to this report.
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