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Traffic clogs a neighborhood after a 12-inch water main is pierced at a busy intersection.
Published May 11, 2011

A few residents near the busy intersection of Bayshore and Gandy boulevards can shower once more.

But the gridlock caused by a water main rupture that clogged their neighborhood may go on through Friday, according to the Tampa Water Department.

The 12-inch main was accidently pierced by a contractor Monday evening, and workers shut off water to 17 customers - including apartment complexes - said Elias Franco, a spokesman for the Water Department.

A contractor, Left Coast Utility, laying cable in the area broke the water main and a storm drain when a drill hit a pipe, Franco said.

It wasn't yet clear how much repairs or labor would cost.

"The contractor that hit the line will finish up being responsible for all expenses associated with this event," Franco said.

Officials worked through the night carefully digging out pipes because the broken pipe is buried about 15 feet under many other utility lines, Franco said.

Crew members removed a median with a small traffic light to dig a hole that was at least as wide as two cars, Franco said. That will have to be rebuilt.

Tuesday morning, drivers honked and cursed as their cars idled in traffic. Some drivers abandoned Bayshore for MacDill Avenue and side streets, creating traffic snarls so bad the entire area seemed gridlocked.

MacDill Air Force Base, already the scene of traffic tieups as employees queue up at gates to clear security checks, advised employees to pay attention to the news for traffic updates.

By Tuesday night, many drivers apparently knew to avoid the area. Traffic at rush hour was substantially less than it had been that morning.

And some customers who had been without water for more than 24 hours got it back.

Alfredo Gonzalez, who lives at the Bayshore Manor Homes, said he microwaved bottled water so he could shave Tuesday morning.

"It was inconvenient," the 50-year-old retired airman said. "I basically had to shave without being able to rinse my razor."

A neighbor, Anthony Gonzalez, 84, said he bought eight 1-gallon jugs of water and used them to flush his toilet. When the water returned, he had special instructions to follow.

"They instructed us to let the water run until it's clear because it might have some dirt in it," he said.

Neither of the men had trouble getting in and out of their neighborhood, because they know the area so well.

But others were put off by the increase in traffic around their homes.

"The big thing is traffic coming through and into the residential area," said Deborah Verplanck, a real estate agent who has lived in the area for three years.

She said it makes walking dogs or riding bikes treacherous. "That's the major problem that I could see."

When the water main broke Monday, flowing water and debris headed for Baypointe Circle, a short cul-de-sac near the Bayshore-Gandy intersection, said Keith Koehler, who lives there with his wife and seven children.

"All of a sudden I saw this flood of mud and debris coming down our road," Koehler said. "It was our own little tsunami."

He said he watched the road "buckle" where the break occurred, then city crews created the large hole in the road to repair the line. Still, he and his family have been able to enter and exit their street.

And though he made everyone shower Monday night in anticipation of a day without water, his faucets still worked.

"Our water was never turned off," he said.

Times staff writers Jack Nicas and Skip O'Rourke contributed to this report.