Flooding closes St. Johnsbury mall - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Flooding closes St. Johnsbury mall

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A closed sign taped to the entrance of the Green Mountain Mall Tuesday came as a surprise to shoppers.

"I pulled up here and I found out that Penney's was closed. And I got a little closer and it said due to flood, and I said what do you mean a flood?" shopper Michael Hale said.

Inside, there is no mistaking the mess. Monday night, a main water line under the mall that feeds sprinklers, bathrooms and stores on the north side gave way. The building's supervisor, Jay Matthews, was one of the first on scene a little after 11 p.m.

"I opened the door in the back and it just gushed out. It just poured out. I thought I was in a swimming pool. And we finally go inside and we saw it coming up through the floor," Matthews said.

An estimated 1,500 gallons per minute saturated the structure for about two hours before the line could be isolated and closed. Power was shut off and workers immediately began the long cleanup process that lies ahead.

"They are going to have to pull carpets, they are going to have to get rid of all this mud, the water," Matthews said. "It's rough."

About a dozen storefronts have been affected, including the office that houses the NEK Chamber of Commerce. Kingdom Gymnastics also took a big blow; that facility is located right near the break.

"You typically think of a water main break in the street, you think about the frost level, not enough snow for insulation. This was under the building. It was under the concrete floor," St. Johnsbury Police Chief Troy Ruggles said.

Along with the cleaning crews, fire officials were also on scene Tuesday monitoring carbon monoxide levels.

"We had some elevated levels in one room in the rear of the building, upward of 29 to 30 parts per million. That was because of a generator that was running and we were able to get that shut down and get the area vented," Ruggles said.

It is not clear how many jobs will be temporarily affected. But those who spend money at the mall say the mess will take a toll on the community.

"As desolate as this place may seem, it does get a lot of traffic in and out and it is helpful for our citizens," Hale said.

At this time, mall officials say they have no idea what the total cost of cleanup is going to be. The mall is expected to be closed for at least a week and that lost revenue will be added to the overall price tag.

The break was first identified by warning alarms at the Public Works building which notified officials that the town was rapidly losing water from its supply.

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