BOONE — A water line break on the early morning of Dec. 27 resulted in the temporary closure of a portion of N.C. 105 and a boil water advisory that impacted many area restaurants.
Just before midnight on Tuesday, the Watauga Communications Center tweeted that “There is an accident on 105 near Ross Chrysler. It involves a fire hydrant and freezing temps so use caution in the area.” Fifteen minutes later, the center tweeted, “The 105 / fire hydrant situation now involves two hydrants and a sink hole. They will be closing 105 in the area of Comfort Suites.”
The highway was blocked off between the intersection with Wilson Drive and Troy’s Diner amid sub-freezing temperatures as officials worked to address the water line break. The incident caused a sinkhole along the edge of the highway across from Comfort Suites.
At the scene, water could be seen spewing off of the northbound side of the road, and a section of sidewalk had collapsed along a guardrail. A tree was resting along the guardrail near the sinkhole. Rick Miller, Boone Public Works Department director, said the tree was cut down but did not affect any nearby power or gas lines.
Boone Police and the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene as well as town water and sewer and street staff.
At approximately 4:50 a.m., both southbound lanes and one northbound lane of N.C. 105 were reopened after being closed for roughly five hours, according to Boone Police Sgt. Scott Mackler. All lanes reopened a little more than an hour later.
Water service in the area was shut off temporarily as officials worked to address the situation. The town later issued a boil water advisory — that expired as of 11:30 a.m. Thursday — due to the 12-inch water main break, according to Miller. The advisory was lifted after testing found that no bacteria was present in samples taken from the town’s water system.
Boone Police said it was unclear if a vehicle that struck a fire hydrant in the area was connected to the water line break. In a statement issued on Thursday, police said the individual involved in the accident was arrested and faces multiple charges involving DWI and alcohol consumption.
Boone Police Lt. Bobby Creed said Wednesday that the single-vehicle accident occurred near Highland Avenue and no injuries were reported. He believed there were about 15 to 20 minutes between the wreck and the water line break.
Miller said it could have been the accident or the temperature being below 30 degrees — or neither — that caused the water line break. He said the department will probably never know the actual cause.
Shortly after the accident the Boone water system experienced a significant leak in the area of the accident, causing pressure in the entire system to drop, according to Miller. Periods of low to no pressure in the water system increases the potential for back siphonage and bacteria to be present in the water. A state-mandated precautionary boil advisory was issued and state mandated testing was conducted.
Miller has asked the N.C. Department of Transportation to look at the guardrail on the northbound side of the highway as well as help find a way to stabilize the bank below. Any repairs to the sidewalk will probably have to wait until warmer weather in the spring, Miller said.
Funds to repair any damages made to the area will come out of the town of Boone’s Public Works budget, Miller said. If the project goes over budget — for example if DOT determines the road has been compromised and needs repaving — Miller said the department will have to seek a budget amendment from the Boone Town Council.
It will be several weeks before Miller said he’ll know of any cost estimates to make repairs. Water and sewer staff will be working to determine how much water was lost in the process.
“That’s money we lost that went down the creek,” Miller said.
The boil water advisory advised all town water consumers to boil all water used for human consumption — including drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food preparation — or to use bottled water.
Several Boone businesses were impacted by the boil water advisory, forcing some restaurants to have limited services or to temporarily close down. Goodnight Brothers Ham, Chick-Fil-A, Casa Rustica, Chipotle, Starbucks and other businesses reportedly closed their doors Wednesday and some of Thursday due to the advisory.
Jennifer Greene, health director of AppHealthCare, said businesses were sent a message about the boil water advisory around 10 a.m. Wednesday via the CodeRed emergency management communication system.
The message was sent to more than 200 restaurants and lodging facilities and nearly 500 additional businesses — including health care providers, dentists, doctors and hospital contacts.
“I think it’s always challenging to get information out fast enough,” Greene said. “I think the town did a good job of putting something out right away.”
To sign up for CodeRED notifications, visit www.wataugacounty.org and click on the CodeRED logo to enroll.
Contact Public Works at (828) 268-6900 or (828) 268-6999 for more information.