Onlookers drawn to Fulton Street by spewing water

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 23, 2011

By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — A ruptured water line created a South Fulton Street geyser Saturday evening, as water surged into the air as high as the top of a utility pole.
It fostered an unexpected attraction as many residents of Fulton Heights walked up for a closer view of their new neighborhood fountain.
The gusher also sent a flood of water into the yard of Jonathan Palmer at the corner of South Fulton and Mitchell Avenue.
“It was probably six or seven inches in the back yard,” said Palmer, who is renovating the house with his wife and hopes to move in a couple months from now. “When you have a flat back yard, it’s pretty extensive.”
Water saturated air-conditioning ducts under the house. A city risk assessment officer was on the scene late Saturday night to look at the damage.
The giant plume of water continued for at least a half-hour until 8:17 p.m., when a crew from Salisbury-Rowan Utilities cut off a considerable portion of the flow through the 12-inch line.
The line, running on the Chestnut Hill Cemetery side, connects to the nearby water tower.
Even though the gusher was gone, water kept gurgling up to street level from the break and continued sending water toward the cemetery, portions of which became finger lakes.
Salisbury-Rowan Utilities worked into the night in making repairs. Traffic had to be detoured on South Fulton Street at Wiley Avenue on one end and Maupin Avenue on the other.
“You don’t see that very often,” Ellis Robinson of Crosby Street said. “It was cool.”
Robinson may have been the first person to notice the break and see the geyser. Driving south on South Fulton Street, he noticed water bubbling into the road near Mitchell Avenue.
As he turned right onto Maupin Avenue, Robinson looked in his rear-view mirror to see the geyser erupt behind him. Robinson went home and returned with his video camera.
Police officers first on the scene were worried that all the water would bring down a utility pole close to break, but it stayed in place.
Rosemary Hall captured one of the earliest photographs of the gusher on her cell phone. She said the water was 5 feet above the top of the utility pole when she arrived.
Some neighbors, wilting from another day of temperatures in the high 90s, wished they could have taken advantage of the new splash pond.
“It’s a waste of water when you can’t go play in it,” said Ann Crayton of Mitchell Avenue.
This is not the first time the water line on South Fulton Street has ruptured. The most recent break — in this same vicinity — came Jan. 21, 2009, when utility officials blamed cold weather. This time, it’s likely hot weather played a role.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.