DECATUR, Ga. - Wednesday's water main break impacted business and government buildings, including police and fire, throughout DeKalb County.
Downtown Decatur is often one of the liveliest places in DeKalb County during lunchtime, but one visitor described the area as something out of 'The Twilight Zone.'
A broken main flooded Buford Highway early Wednesday morning, impacting two school districts and multiple colleges. Blockades were put up on Buford Highway just north of I-285 between Longmire Way and McElroy Road.
The break occurred in a 48-inch transmission main.
“Woke up this morning, kids were out of school, and realized we couldn’t open for business today,” said Dave Blanchard, who runs the Brick Store Pub. “Today was kind of a mess.”
The pub was among the many DeKalb businesses that hung homemade signs on the locked doors that kept away potential customers because the businesses couldn’t use the county water supply.
“You must have running water because you’re washing everything all the time,” Blanchard said. “So we had to close and I’m almost positive every restaurant at least on the Decatur square closed today as well.”
Blanchard wasn't the only business hurt. Atlanta Wholesale Company was one of the businesses closest to the break, and their owners arrived to find several inches of water sloshing inside their store.
“Our boxes are soaked and this all has new merchandise that hasn’t even been touched,” they said.
While the water had receded some by Wednesday evening, there was so much moisture inside the store it fogged up 11Alive's cameras. They now estimate there was about $70,000-worth of damage.
"It is our only source of income. It is crazy how you can walk in one day and everything just, everything on the floor is basically ruined from what we can see,” they said.
Meanwhile, Dekalb Medical had to declare a “code white” facilities failure during the day Wednesday, which diverted emergency room traffic to other hospitals and postponed elective surgeries.
DeKalb Medical Center didn’t close, but it set up a command center and diverted ambulances away from its emergency room after its water supply slowed to a trickle.
"But it also impacted our clinical operations," said Dr. Stephen Thomas, who added the absence of water forced the hospital to cancel voluntary surgical procedures in order to conserve what little water there was.
The water main break also closed some facilities at Emory and the Centers for Disease Control. DeKalb Fire stations now have water pressure back and eight water-filled tanker trucks for fire and hospital emergencies.
The water main break had a similar impact on medical and emergency facilities all over DeKalb, and it closed businesses from North DeKalb’s busy Perimeter Mall, south to Decatur and beyond.
Water pressure came up Wednesday afternoon, which was too late to salvage the day for many of downtown Decatur businesses, especially with a boil advisory still in effect.
“The DeKalb County Government will initiate a full-scale investigation into the cause of today's massive water main break," said DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond. "We will determine whether the break was the result of a systematic failure, improper maintenance, wear and tear or physical tampering. I am committed to making sure our infrastructure is protected and maintained in a manner that will ensure quality service to the citizens of DeKalb County.”
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