Bucktown water main break creates sinkhole that trapped driver heading to work

FOX 32 NEWS - A water main break on the Northwest Side turned a Bucktown street into a swimming pool, and then a skating rink.

It also created a sinkhole that trapped a driver headed to work.

It was a soggy surprise for residents of the 1800-block of North Leavitt on Monday morning.

"There was just water all over this street, from down on Cortland to Moffat. And it pretty much looked like a disaster zone for a little bit,” said resident Edwin Saucedo.  

A break in an underground water main sent hundreds of thousands of gallons gushing onto the street, and opened an underground sinkhole that nearly swallowed a car.

"There was water everywhere,” said the car owner, Yuri.

The car's owner says he was just trying to get to work.

"I was able to jump in the car and just try to drive away and the ground collapsed, car fell in there. Cops come, helped me get on top of the car and climb out,” Yuri said.

The pipe that actually ruptured overnight is a 12 inch cast iron pipe, probably put in place in the 1890's. And you can see by the size of the hole, a lot of water was able to escape in a short amount of time.

Chicago Water Department crews were able to fix the breach by early Monday afternoon and return water service to the area.

For the past month, those crews have been replacing the old water and sewer mains in the area, which combined with the bitter cold likely prompted the pipe to pop.

"The pipe may have been exposed briefly while they were tying in. However, it probably has more to do with the age of the main,” said water department spokesman Gary Litherland. “We know they're fragile when we work on an old main. And we tell folks be prepared, they break without warning. And in this case it did."

The good news is, despite all the water on the street, only a couple neighbors reported just a small amount of seepage in their basements, causing minimal damage.

32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack, whose ward includes the water main break, is questioning why the water department started a major sewer replacement project in the middle of winter.