Fort Lauderdale has a dry day as water pipeline breaks
Fort Lauderdale partially patched the break in a water pipe that closed stores, restaurants and stranded thousands without water on Thursday, but the boil water notice could remain in effect for another 48 hours as long-term repairs continue, city officials said Thursday evening.
And the on-site supervisor for an FPL subcontractor out of Wellington was issued a Notice to Appear in Broward Court for doing work without city permits.
Residents in Fort Lauderdale and several surrounding municipalities awoke Thursday to the news that they could be without water throughout the day and maybe into Friday after Florida Communication Concepts damaged a 42-inch water main at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport Wednesday afternoon. That meant no water to the Fiveash treatment plant, which meant no water for Fort Lauderdale.
Businesses closed or didn’t bother opening. Supermarkets saw hurricane prep-style runs on bottled water. The courthouse, universities and even the Broward Center for the Performing Arts were forced to shutter.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis declared a state of emergency.
A partial patch on the hole got things flowing by 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
“We’re now building a concrete bunker around the broken pipe that will seal the break and will protect the patch, shore up the pipe and prevent the break from becoming worse,” Trantalis said at a 6 p.m. news conference. “The bunker should be completed by 10 p.m., which should allow the Fiveash water treatment plant to return to full operation.
“This will give us time to redirect the water flow to the backup line,” Trantalis continued. “Once water’s flowing through the backup line, we’ll then install a replacement pipe to the primary main. That work will take through the weekend.”
Still, Trantalis cautioned, until further notice, the 220,000 residents affected — Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park, Wilton Manors, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Sea Ranch Lakes, Port Everglades, parts of Davie and Tamarac — should boil tap water for all forms of consumption as well as cooking and washing dishes. Or, use bottled water.
The city’s water distribution locations will remain open until 8 p.m. Saturday at Beach Community Center, 3351 NE 33rd Ave.; Mills Point Park, 2201 NW Ninth Ave.; and Riverland Park, 950 SW 27th Ave.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent two semi-trucks of bottled water to the city, for which Trantalis was thankful. He admitted more people than he anticipated hit the water distribution site.
According to a Fort Lauderdale police report posted by Glenna Milberg of WPLG-Channel 10, Florida Communication Concepts had no city issued permits when it began boring for a new electrical line. Hitting the water main caused “thousands of gallons of water to spew onto the airplane ramps.”
As the on-site supervisor, Shawn McGregor got personally cited. Sunbiz.org says the company wasn’t registered to do business in the state until company president Timothy Hicks did so on March 21.
Tourists also felt it. As water pressure dropped, fire sprinkler systems stopped working. Many hotels evacuated guests as a precaution, Miami Herald news partner CBS4 reported.
Trantalis said earlier Thursday the city was prepared to relocate those in hospitals and nursing homes if necessary. Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties supplied tanker trucks to fire-rescue in case of emergency, he added.
The Galleria, a shopping mall with more than 100 stores and 2,000 employees, did not open Thursday, a spokesman said. The Broward County courthouse closed at noon. Broward College as well as Florida Atlantic University and HCI College’s Fort Lauderdale campuses canceled classes and operations for the day.
Without running water for drinking, cooking and toilet flushing, restaurants can’t operate. After losing water pressure, all of the restaurants on Las Olas Boulevard have closed, a spokesperson said.
Some restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, however, were determined to stay open. JEY Hospitality Group, operating Tacocraft, Pizzacraft and Henry’s Sandwich Station in Flagler Village, stocked up on bottled water and arranged for portable toilets and hand-washing sinks to be sent to their locations, co-founder Marc Falsetto told the Sun-Sentinel.
“With or without water, we’re not closing,” Falsetto said.
The Funky Buddah Brewery, on the other hand, is not suffering from the shortage. Armed with 6,000 gallons of drinking water in their reserves, the restaurant is offering to fill a gallon of water per person.
But other centers of entertainment shut down. Casualties include independent theater Savor Cinema, cultural center ArtServe and even the venerable Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
But the show will go on. Thursday night’s Summer Theater Camp’s performances of “Once Upon a Mattress” was moved from the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center to the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center for the 6 and 8 p.m. performances, said Jan Goodheart, vice president of external affairs for Broward Center. Tickets will be honored at the Aventura venue.
“We anticipate that the issue will be resolved before our next scheduled shows,” Goodheart said Thursday.
When it comes to fixing the pipe, Fort Lauderdale is turning to neighboring counties for help.
Miami-Dade’s Water and Sewer Department provided Broward with a replacement segment for the damaged pipe, said director Kevin Lynskey.
“We got a call at 4:30 a.m. on this,” he said. “That pipe is in our inventory. So they came down.”
Lynskey said he planned to meet with his deputies Thursday afternoon to review Miami-Dade’s potential response to a similar situation of a major water main failing. He said the agency has run through that drill multiple times, but this will be the first with him as director. He took over in early 2018.
Miami Herald staff writers Douglas Hanks and Howard Cohen contributed to this report.