LENOX -- A portion of the downtown business district was closed to traffic for nearly three hours on Thursday afternoon after a water-pipe break turned part of Church Street into a skating rink.
The Fire Department was called to 67 Church St. at about 2 p.m. after five feet of water was discovered in the basement of the commercial building undergoing renovation.
The structure is owned by Drew Davis, the Springfield-based investor who acquired the Village Center, housing the post office and several businesses. He has also been buying up neighboring commercial buildings.
"We believe a domestic water line broke," said Fire Chief Daniel Clifford. The reason for the rupture was unclear.
As the water was being pumped into an old storm drain, the catch basin became overwhelmed, unable to handle the flow, so the water migrated into basements of several neighboring buildings, said Clifford. "So we had to pump those out, too."
Since the storm drain being used to capture the standing water from the basement of 67 Church St. was unable to handle the flow, he explained, it triggered a backup of water through the floor drains of neighboring homes and businesses.
"We had to pump those basements out into a different storm drain," Clifford said, because when the street was reconstructed several years ago, the old storm drain had been augmented by a newer catch basin with greater capacity.
Basement appliances, including gas and hot water heaters at 85 Church St., a home rented by the Raynor family, were damaged and are awaiting repair. Meanwhile, the family is being housed with relatives. The building owner's name was unavailable Thursday, Clifford added.
Some water also leaked into the basement of Laurie Donovan's nearby jewelry business, but it was pumped out with no damage to appliances.
Liability for damage remains to be determined, said Clifford.
The ice buildup caused by the incident forced the shutdown of Franklin Street and the adjacent portion of Church Street up to Housatonic Street until early evening.
Reflecting on the grueling afternoon, the chief agreed it was an unusual situation -- "you think you're doing the right thing, and it came back to bite us this time."