Crews with the Philadelphia Water Department are working to control the aftermath of a 48-inch transmission main that burst beneath an East Falls shopping center Thursday afternoon.
The Philadelphia Fire Department got the call at 2:48 p.m., arriving at Bakers Centre about five minutes later, said Executive Chief Clifford Gilliam.
Water was everywhere.
“Approximately seven stores were evacuated and about 100 customers,” said Gilliam.
Two employees had to be rescued via boat, he added. The rest were able to walk out with “no problems.”
The list of affected businesses includes Hair Buzz, Planet Fitness, Dollar General, Shop Rite and Ross.
Would-be shoppers and arriving employees were also impacted.
Melissa Williams had hoped to get some grocery shopping done. Instead, she had to settle for being one of several onlookers at the scene.
“When I got into the parking lot there was nothing but water,” she said. “A lot of people were running to get their cars out.”
The flooding posed a different problem for Desiree Ayala: how to get to work by 4:30 p.m.? Her path to ShopRite on Hunting Park Avenue was a wet one.
“It’s 4:27,” said Ayala. “I can’t even walk by.”
For now, it’s unclear how much water flowed out of the 120-year-old main before crews began manually shutting it off. Had the main been left to gush for a full 24 hours, it would have released roughly 100 million gallons of water, said PWD spokesperson John DiGiulio.
It may be a few days before the department will learn how the main was broken, he added.
“Crews are out there working to do this as quickly as they can,” said DiGiulio.
The flooding also impacted a stretch of railroad tracks owned by CSX that runs behind the shopping center.
As of about 3:15 p.m., service there was suspended as engineers accessed waterlogged tracks, said spokesman Rob Doolittle.
“Our folks will develop a plan,” he said “Until they have a chance to inspect the tracks we can’t speculate on how long it will take.”
This is the not the first time Bakers Centre has flooded.
In January 2014, a different transmission main burst, sending millions of gallons across the parking lot and into stores.
Repairs to the parking lot took months to complete.