Water main breaks, creates sinkhole in Baldwin

An early morning water main break in Baldwin on Anderson Street on Saturday, March 29, 2014, created a sinkhole big enough to swallow the front end of a vehicle and caused officials to shut off water to more than a dozen homes. (Credit: Network News Long Island)

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A water main ruptured in a Baldwin neighborhood early Saturday, creating a large sinkhole that swallowed a parked car, officials said.

The break in the 16-inch main flooded part of Anderson Street, prompting utility crews to shut off water to 17 homes for most of the day while repairs were made.

"It was like a river flowing," said Richard Ware, 76, a retiree who lives on the side of the street where the main broke. "We lived through Sandy; the water was flowing the other way. This time it was going downstream."

Neighbors called police shortly before 4:30 a.m. after the street began flooding between Soper Avenue and Essex Court. There were no reported injuries, police said.

Crews from New York American Water, the Merrick company that owns and operates the water system, drained the sinkhole and replaced an 18-foot section of pipe.

During the outage, the company delivered bottled water to affected residents, according to spokesman Peter Eschbach. Service started being restored about 5 p.m., he said.

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Richard Kern, an engineer for the company who went to the scene, blamed wild fluctuations in temperature over the winter for damaging underground pipes.

"The ground shifts because of the freezing and thawing, and that puts stress on the pipe," he said.

Nassau police responded to the incident and pulled a 1995 Toyota Camry out of the flooded sinkhole.

The car belongs to Jerry Katz, 85, who had been using it to drive every day to the Long Beach Senior Center, said his grandson, Jason Hertz, who also lives on the street.

"He's pretty upset," said Hertz, 27. The civil engineer said a neighbor woke him before dawn by pounding on his front door.

"I saw my grandfather's car was in the ground. My car was right behind it," he said. "It's crazy to wake up to see this."

Kern said the sinkhole damaged both the street and the sidewalk. A temporary patch was in place last night.

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