PORTLAND, Ore. — Streets in a Northeast Portland neighborhood transformed into rivers after a water main break late Saturday morning led to massive flooding.

"We had what appears to be a fairly catastrophic failure," said Ty Kovatch, director of maintenance and construction for the Portland Water Bureau.

The water main break was reported shortly after 11 a.m. near Northeast 23rd Avenue and Skidmore Street. Kovatch said a 30-inch cast iron pipe broke. The cause of the break is unknown and water was still flowing from the break.

Video from Saturday showed water flooding through the streets. Portland Fire & Rescue estimated water was coming out at 1 million gallons per minute.

Kovatch said some Portland residents noticed dirty or discolored water. He said that's fairly common after main breaks. 

The Portland Water Bureau said the color is due to sediment in the water being stirred up in the system and may affect color, odor and taste.

There are no known health hazards associated with sediment in the water. Sediment is always in our system but is only visible when a change in flow is enough to disturb the sediment, Portland Water Bureau said. Customers may choose to drink bottled water while waiting for discoloration to clear.  

Portland Fire & Rescue said being in or near the water is extremely hazardous. 

"We’ve got open manhole covers, we’ve got an issue with the cleanliness of the water and we’re not sure about the stability of the ground in a lot of areas," said Lt. Rich Chatman with Portland Fire & Rescue.

Mayor Ted Wheeler echoed the warning of Portland Fire.

"We cannot stress this enough. Stay out of the water," Wheeler said.

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The flooded areas included Northeast 21st to 30th Avenues and Alameda Street to Rosa Parks Way. Businesses on Northeast Alberta were impacted as floodwaters reached the busy street.

Chatman said about 12 homes were evacuated. Those homes had flooding in basements, he said.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation said sand and sandbags are available for anyone who needs to protect their property. They're located in the median island at Northeast 26th Avenue and Mason Street.

Power Outages

Pacific Power reported outages for more than 10,000 customers in the area. The company said it "de-energized" power lines at the request of Portland Fire & Rescue.

"Due to the situation, power restoration will be very labor intensive and may take more time than a normal power outage," the company said in a news release.

At approximately 7 p.m., crews had restored power to the area. A few customers with water damage didn't get their power turned back on and will have to have an electrician repair their equipment before it can be turned on. 

“We want to thank our customers for their patience and our crews for their diligence,” said David Lucas, vice president of operations.

Customers without damaged equipment and still without power are asked to call Pacific Power at 877-508-5088.

Check the latest outage map

Kovatch said the water bureau's primary concern was shutting down the main. He said it was challenging because many sources of water feed the main, which carries water from major reservoirs across the city. 

“This is a very rare event and considerably larger main break than we usually see," he said.

The Portland Water Bureau was able to reduce the flow in the main break area.

For homes and businesses that experience a sewer backup as the water begins to recede, they are asked to call PBOT's Maintenance Operations Dispatch at 503-823-1700, which is staffed 24 hours a day.

On Sunday, PBOT street sweepers cleaned the streets where the flood water spread debris. Crews will inspect the area and make repairs that may take several weeks.

Mayor Wheeler said city and county agencies are "all hands on deck" to help people affected by the main break.

For information on how to safely clean dispose of water in a basement, visit www.Multco.us and click on “Responding safely to Portland’s water main break.