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Perron Street hit with icy flood

Perron Street businesses had to deal with a major flood this week, but instead of the heavens opening up, the water was flowing from deep below the ground.

Perron Street businesses had to deal with a major flood this week, but instead of the heavens opening up, the water was flowing from deep below the ground.

A broken water line flooded out several Perron businesses on Tuesday and a local road will continue to be closed next week as crews finish repairs.

The busy downtown street became a river starting around 4 p.m. Tuesday night, when the water line broke beneath the intersection of Perron Street and Sir Winston Churchill Avenue.

Water flowed downhill and formed a small lake in front of the St. Albert Post Office at the intersection with St. Michael Street, travelling even further down Perron and into the Sturgeon River.

City utilities manager Dan Rites said that, until they can get to the pipe he can't say for sure what caused the break, but he suspects cold weather caused a ground shift.

"With the temperatures we have had, that is what I would put my money on."

The deep cold is also going to make it difficult to repair, Rites said. Just getting to where the broken line is located will be very difficult.

"This one at that location could be nine to 10 feet and there is about six feet of frost in the ground right now and we have to battle through that."

Rites said the city was putting new valves in the ground and trying to reroute the water first, rather than deal with the broken pipe.

When the city shut off the water to prevent more flooding, the provincial building on the corner of Sir Winston Churchill and Grandin Road and a handful of residences were all left without water.

That water was restored around 5 p.m. on Thursday, but the city expects to keep Sir Winston Churchill at Perron headed eastbound closed until sometime early next week.

The location of the actual break is also going to pose difficulties because the line runs very close to other utilities in the ground.

"It appears the traffic signal there might have to be taken down, because it might be in the excavation area," said Rites.

The pipes in the area aren't exceptionally old, Rites said, but when the ground shifts around them, water pipes don't bend.

"It is more of a case of the ground movement affecting the pipe than it is the pipe being in a bad state."

Businesses damaged

Glenn Sheets, owner of Old Hippy Fine Home Furnishings, said he was worried when he started to see water coming into his showroom, but ultimately there was very little damage.

He said he first noticed the water around 4 p.m. and it was after 7:30 p.m. when crews turned it off.

"I thought it took them a long time to shut it off."

Sheets cleared drains outside his store, but they didn't do much good.

"The drain hardly took it. It started to, but then it just went right over it."

Rites said given such poor weather, he was pleased with the city's response.

"The water that was coming out of the leak was going down and covering the valves that we needed to isolate the leak."

He said the situation was made even worse when the storm sewers froze up.

Ken English with Embedded Tattoo and Piercing ended up with about three inches of water in his newly opened shop, but said it was only a minor inconvenience.

"We are going to start again on Tuesday and it will be business as usual," he said. "There is not any permanent damage. It's the kind of thing that can be cleaned up."

English said he is going to bring the health department in to double check everything before they re-open, but doesn't expect any major issues.

He said he thought city workers did their best.

"You can't expect a miracle and they were doing the best they could. They were on it right away."

Evan Sterling, co-owner of Meese Clothing, said he was pulled away from one tragedy to another that night.

"We are actually watching the Canadian juniors," he said. "They called us, we came down to the store and there were four inches of water all over the store."

Sterling said luckily the water did not reach any of the store's clothing, but he is still looking at replacing all of the floors.

He said it would have been better if the city had moved faster to protect stores on Perron, but feels it did the best it could with a bad situation.

"I wish there had been a little bit of a faster response protecting the stores, but they have a job to do as well."

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