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Water main break ices shut D.C.-area highway

/ Source: The Associated Press

A water main break iced over a major commuter highway in Washington's Maryland suburbs, snarling morning traffic Monday and swamping parked cars in one lot.

Authorities say the pipe ruptured in an office park that backs up to Capital Beltway in Prince George County and sent water down a small hill onto the road, where it froze. Officials closed all southbound lanes of Interstate 95 between Ritchie Marlboro Road and Route 214 by 5 a.m. and said it could be closed several hours.

At one point, water from the broken main shot eight or nine feet in the air, said Lyn Riggins, a spokeswoman for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. There was significant damage to the office park where the break occurred at East Hampton Rd. in Capitol Heights.

"It looks like somewhere where you would go white water rafting," Riggins said.

A water main break is seen at an industrial park next to the Capital Beltway in Capitol Heights, Md., Monday, Jan. 24, 2011. The break outside Washington has sent water pouring from a 54-inch pipe, prompting the closure of the inner loop of the Capital Beltway in Maryland and snarling morning traffic. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Chunks of asphalt were strewn across the parking lot, and three cars that appeared to have been parked at the center when the break occurred were inundated with water. Store windows had been shattered.

Riggins said the 54-inch water main that ruptured was a major distribution main but it was unclear what caused the break around 4 a.m. Riggins said officials had shut off three valves by midmorning and were working on a fourth and final valve expected to shut off the water.

As a result of the break, thousands of customers in the area of Central Avenue were also experiencing low water pressure.