Burst water main floods I-5, forcing closure in downtown San Diego

A broken water main in downtown San Diego
A broken water main near A Street and 11th Avenue sent water flowing onto downtown San Diego streets Sunday night.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune )

Drivers heading into downtown San Diego faced a traffic nightmare Monday morning after two water mains burst Sunday, leaving a section of northbound Interstate 5 under water.

Starting around 11 p.m., all traffic on north I-5 was being diverted to north state Route 163. Crews were working to pump water out of the flooded lanes, but no estimates were given as to when the freeway lanes would be drivable.

The ramp from southbound SR-163 to north I-5 also was closed — shutting down a popular route to San Diego International Airport on the first day of the Thanksgiving holiday week.

“At this point it is simply that the drains are overloaded. There is pumping going on. Caltrans is out there with a lot of resources trying to clear that water out of there,” California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Latullipe said.


He said water was pooling on I-5 near Hawthorne Street.

“Lots of people are probably trying to head to the airport, and it’s causing quite a bit of traffic,” he said. He recommended drivers take west Interstate 8 to south Interstate 5 to get to the airport.

Workers cleaned up the Phenix Salon Suites after a broken water main sent water into downtown streets Sunday.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune )

Drivers heading north out of South County were finding major delays on north I-5 and on north Interstate 805.

“Hopefully people are off this week, so maybe it isn’t as bad as it could be, but yeah, I feel bad for anybody coming out of the South Bay,” Latulippe said. “Anybody coming from South County is going to be waiting.”

The freeway closure came hours after an earlier water main break sent water flowing down downtown streets, creating a sinkhole and flooding at least one business in the East Village area.

The first main — at 11th Avenue and A Street — broke around 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

The second one — on the ramp from SR-163 to 4th Avenue — burst shortly before 7 p.m., sending a geyser of water onto freeway lanes.

It wasn’t until shortly before 1 a.m. Monday that crews were able to shut down water to that pipeline, according to the CHP — meaning water flowed onto the freeway for nearly six hours.

A broken water main sent water into downtown San Diego streets on Sunday.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune )

San Diego public information officer Arian Collins said the pipe that burst on 11th Avenue near A Street was a 24-inch transmission water main.

Water supplying that main was turned off around 6:45 p.m., although some water was seen still flowing about a half-hour later.

The surging water caused pavement at the intersection of 11th Avenue and A Street to cave in, forming what appeared to be a large sinkhole full of water. The road nearby also buckled.

Rocks and debris were strewn across the intersection. Some nearby intersections also lost power, leaving traffic lights dark.

At least one business in the Vantage Pointe building on 10th Avenue flooded. Workers could be seen cleaning up water inside the Phenix Salon Suites, in a street-level space. Sandbags were placed near the building to try to block more water from entering.