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Water Main Break Disrupts NYC Subway Service For Hundreds of Thousands

October 17, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ A turn-of-the-century water main cracked open this morning near Grand Central Terminal, sending rivers cascading into a subway station and knocking out service for hundreds of thousands of riders, officials said.

Water gushed through ceiling grates into the subway station under the landmark railway station after a 20-inch main, laid in 1904, broke shortly after 5:30 a.m. Above, some of the busiest streets in Manhattan buckled.

A second, even older main was being checked to see if it also was involved. One minor injury was reported, said Sgt. Tina Mohrmann, a police spokeswoman.

On the average weekday, some 500,000 commuters use the subway lines that were shut down, Transit Authority spokesman Bob Slovak said. The lines link the east and west sides of Manhattan and link Manhattan with parts of Queens and Brooklyn.

Commuter railroad service into Grand Central was not affected, but many workers who got off those trains were unable to make connections.

″I hate coming into the city,″ said Susan Orzechowski, a music production manager from Bronxville. ″I don’t like coming in and things like this make it worse.″

The leak was stanched by early afternoon, but a stream still flowed down 42nd Street because water was being pumped up from flooded areas below.

Transportation Commissioner Lucius Riccio said engineers would have to see the subway damage, but that it could take days to repair. Parts of the ceiling collapsed in the subway and escalators were flooded.