ATLANTA (AP) — A massive water main break sent water gushing into neighborhoods and flooded a major highway near Atlanta on Wednesday morning, forcing more than 100 schools to close and shutting down businesses miles away.
The break in a major transmission main also caused water woes for hospitals, closed a nearby mall and led to low water pressure to thousands of residents across DeKalb County, a major suburban district northeast of Atlanta. Hours later, authorities said, water pressure was still being restored to the community as urgent repairs were being carried out.
It was not immediately known exactly how many residents had lost water service or experienced low water pressure. The situation was so severe that authorities in DeKalb County announced they had opened their emergency operations center and deployed state government resources to deal with the ripple effects from the break.
Water began flowing across Buford Highway — a major artery through metro Atlanta — before dawn Wednesday, WSB-TV reported. Photographs published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed cars and buildings surrounded by water that rushed over the highway.
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DeKalb County schools, Georgia’s third-largest school system, said all of its schools — more than 100 — had decided to send children home Wednesday. The unexpected school closures left thousands of parents scrambling to make arrangements for their children since the school system serves about 102,000 students, according to its website.
Shoppers at a Publix supermarket at Town Brookhaven in the county snapped up the majority of bottled water on the normally well-stocked shelves as the water woes spread Wednesday.
“It’s DeKalb County,” Brookhaven resident Linda Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as she put jugs of water in her shopping cart. “You never know how long it’ll take them to fix it.”
The county’s water plant was experiencing low pressure, and residents were asked to conserve water. Eight water tankers were called in to the county to supply water for fire protection and to provide some water at area hospitals, authorities added.
One of metro Atlanta’s largest shopping centers, Perimeter Mall, announced that it would be closed because of low water pressure. Elsewhere, DeKalb Medical canceled elective surgeries scheduled for later in the day. The break also left the DeKalb County Police headquarters without water, authorities said.
“The DeKalb County Government will initiate a full-scale investigation into the cause of today’s massive water main break,” said DeKalb County CEO Michael L. Thurmond. “We will determine whether the break was the result of a systematic failure, improper maintenance, wear and tear or physical tampering.”
Associated Press writer Jeff Martin contributed to this report.