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Water main break under control in Baltimore suburb

  • Story Highlights
  • Water is safe to drink; pressure has been restored
  • Residents say water damaged vehicles, homes and left sewage smell
  • 72-inch main shut down after about two hours, county official says
  • Nearly 1,000 were without power, according to Baltimore Gas and Electric
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(CNN) -- Water pressure is restored and it is now safe to drink in a Baltimore suburb where a huge water main burst, sending torrents of muddy water coursing over neighborhood streets and down highway ramps, officials said.

The water main burst on Friday led to muddy waters flooding streets and highway ramps.

Muddy water envelops the community of Dundalk, Maryland, on Friday. Many were left without power.

"A bad situation is well in hand," Baltimore County chief executive Jim Smith said during a press conference Saturday morning.

Crews were still at work inspecting homes and clearing water from flooded basements, he said, "but the danger is over, the crisis is over."

A prestressed concrete water pipe burst late Friday afternoon under a road in the suburban Baltimore community of Dundalk.

The 72-inch-wide main was shut about two hours after it ruptured, Smith said.

No injuries were reported, Smith said, and knee-high to chest-high water had been reduced to 4 inches.

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 is the sewage smell, he said.

Local public works officials said at least 39 basements in the area were flooded. Video See water main break damage »

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 delivered car keys and other items across flooded streets to people who couldn't get to their homes.

Mike Pell, 34, watched the water slowly recede after the main was shut. Water covered the wheels of his pickup.

"My basement's done," he said, pointing to his shoulder to show the height of the water inside. He and his fiancee had a bedroom in the basement. "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 gonna 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 flood. It sat in 2 feet of water a block away. 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 about a block away from the break said the entire parking lot was flooded.

Cathy Geisler said customers were still in the store Friday afternoon when police arrived to tell everyone except for essential personnel to evacuate.

"We were still doing business, then the electricity went out and we escorted everyone out of the store," Geisler said.

Aerial video from CNN affiliates WMAR and WBAL showed a collapsed roadway covered by torrents of water. Entire neighborhoods had flooded streets, and some residents were evacuated, authorities said.

Eric Braughman, who lives on one of the flooded streets, said he had "thought something was up" with the water Thursday when his faucets discharged orange-brown 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 Co.'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.

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Kocher cited two other huge main breaks in the Maryland and Washington 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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