‘Catastrophic’: City of Rochester, Monroe County in states of emergency due to water main break, impending storm

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. –– Thousands of people are dealing with a boil water advisory – as a winter storm is about to barrel through our area.

Mayor Malik Evans and Monroe County Executive Adam Bellow declared states of emergency Thursday. The Rochester City School District canceled classes for both Thursday and Friday, and several other schools and businesses announced closures for Friday, too.

“Something like this has never happened where you had a catastrophic water main break and I’m sure all of you have been covering the news on this ‘once-in-a-lifetime storm’ they’re calling it,” Evans said.

The water main break happened Wednesday near Ford and Main streets. The cause is unknown, but the age of the pipe is likely a factor. The 36-inch underground pip was installed in 1899.

At its worst, the water main was spewing 35,000 to 40,000 per gallon a minute.

“To give you an idea, a 24-foot round above ground pool at 4feet, we would have been filling three of those a second with what was happening,” Richard Perrin, commissioner of the city’s department of environmental services, said.

Damaging winds nearing 60 mph and potential lake effect snow are forecasted. The Thruway Authority has banned commercial vehicles beginning at 6 a.m. Friday from Exit 46 in Henrietta to the Pennsylvania line and on I-190.

Here are our live updates about the water main break:


State of emergency begins (Noon): The City of Rochester is under a state of emergency after a massive water main break Wednesday night – and an impending snow and wind storm rolling in Friday morning.

The city isolated the break at 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday and has been working to fix it ever since. You can watch the full press conference here:

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Boil water advisory will remain in effect until at least Christmas Eve (5 a.m.): The boil water advisory for parts of Rochester will remain in effect until at least Christmas Eve. All city schools are closed on Thursday and Ford Street is closed from West Main Street down to Troup Street.

The city says libraries and R-Centers will resume normal hours on Thursday after many were closed due to the water main break.

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All RCSD schools are closed (11:30 p.m.): The Rochester City School District will be closed Thursday due to a water main break and boil water advisory in the city.

Chief of Communications & Intergovernmental Affairs Marisol Ramos-Lopez announced Wednesday night that because the water main break falls within the boundaries of several schools, all RCSD schools and buildings will be closed and all school-related activities are canceled.

RCSD staff members are not expected to report and no transportation will be provided for charter, private/parochial or urban-suburban students, according to Ramos-Lopez.

Boil water advisory for parts of city (11:15 p.m.): The City, Monroe County, and the New York State Department of Health have issued a boil water advisory for parts of Rochester after a water main broke on Wednesday afternoon.

You can see a map of the affected regions here:

Areas in Rochester that are under a boil water advisory

Any region that falls within the map or on its lines is advised to boil water until at least Christmas Eve. County Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said the advisory is because the drop in water pressure increases the chance the microbes, such as bacteria, and viruses, enter the water supply. You can see the county’s guide to water boiling here.

The following neighborhoods fall within the boundaries of the boil water advisory:

  • Genesee River to Flint Street
  • Flint Street to Genesee Street
  • Genesee Street to Arnett Boulevard
  • Arnett Boulevard to Westfield Street
  • Westfield Street to Chili Avenue
  • Chili Avenue to Lee Road
  • Lee Road to NYS Route 104
  • NYS Route 104 to Genesee River
  • Genesee River to Inner Loop
  • Inner Loop to University Avenue
  • University Avenue to North/South Goodman Street
  • South Goodman Street to Linden Street
  • Linden Street to Mount Hope Avenue
  • Mount Hope Avenue to McLean Street
  • McLean Street to Genesee River

Those affected should bring tap water to a rolling boil, boil for one minute and cool before using. Residents can also use bottled water. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth and preparing food until further notice. The advisory will be lifted once tests confirm the water is OK for drinking.

Any residents and businesses that do not have water service are encouraged to call 311 so crews can determine the extent of remaining outages.

Restaurant owner speaks about impact of water main break (11 p.m.): A water main break on Ford Street and West Main Street in Rochester that started Wednesday afternoon has affected homes and businesses.

The owner of an African-Haitian restaurant and market on West Main Street had to close his business early due to the loss of water pressure. He says when the water went off, he didn’t know what had happened.

“I got panicked because I thought maybe the bill didn’t get paid or something like that because I got nothing, no warning that the water,” said Bonga who owns the restaurant. “So I start calling but at that time it was about 5 o’clock and the authority was already closed.”

Bonga says he was unable to do dishes or wash his produce. He also says his business probably lost about $800 to $900.

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Water main break in Rochester (5:30 p.m.): Police were called to the area of Ford Street and West Main Street around 5 p.m. Wednesday for the report of a water main break and a car possibly stuck in the water. Officers didn’t find a car, but Ford Street and surrounding blocks are flooded.

“Right now we need to find the exact location of the break but at this point in time, we are taking all of our precautions to make sure that R-Center libraries and essential services are able to be maintained,” said Environmental Services Commissioner Richard Perrin. “We’re working with our partners at the county very closely, specifically the Monroe County Water Authority, where we’re having them burst their pressure to our lines.”

City leaders say the underground pipe that broke was a 36-inch main line that was installed in 1899. The city’s Commissioner of Environmental Services says they have brought in specialized equipment to repair the pipe. In the meantime, they’re drawing water from other sources to boost the water pressure to the rest of the city.

“This is really a function of some old infrastructure that we’ve done our absolute best to maintain, but from time to time these things are going to happen,” Perrin said. “We have our plan in place for ensuring that we do restore safe and reliable water as quickly as possible.”

The city confirms this is impacting water service, primarily on the west side. The city has closed several R-Centers, the Rochester Community Sports Complex, and city branch libraries. Ford Street is shut down to traffic from West Main to Atkinson Street as the water authority and emergency crews work to repair the break. You’re urged to avoid the area.

The city released the following statement:

“As a result of the break, the City has closed affected R-Centers including Tyshaun Cauldwell R-Center for Hope, Edgerton R-Center, as well as the Rochester Community Sports Complex. City branch libraries have also closed, including Phillis Wheatley Community Library, Arnett Branch, Lyell Branch, and Central Branch.”

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