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‘Waterfall’ pours from rooftop water tower into Near North building

The water tower atop 409 W. Hursent water pouring through ceiling  building Friday afternoon. | Art Golab~Sun-Times

The water tower atop 409 W. Huron sent water pouring through the ceiling of the building Friday afternoon. | Art Golab~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 23, 2014 6:17AM

Firefighters evacuated about 180 workers from two River North buildings Friday afternoon after a rooftop water tower tilted and began leaking, sending a cascade of water into one of the buildings.

Veesha Howard works on the fifth floor of the six-story loft office building at 409 W. Huron and said she heard a crashing noise about 1:45 p.m. and saw water pouring through the ceiling.

“It was like a waterfall,” she said.

No one was injured but fire officials evacuated the building, which had about 30 workers and houses the Institute for Human Fertility, two workout studios and a day care center.

Because the tower was leaning at a slight angle toward another larger loft building across the alley, that structure — 400 W. Erie — was also evacuated of about 150 workers. It is home to Kurtis Productions, former TV anchor Bill Kurtis’ television production company, and several other businesses.

Firefighters were also concerned about an electrical transformer in the alley directly beneath the leaning water tower. ComEd was called to disconnect power lines.

Workers were told that their buildings would likely be closed for at least the rest of the day.

Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Michael Fox said the city Building Department would inspect the tower and determine if it can be repaired or if it must be torn down. Workers will not be allowed back in the buildings until the situation is resolved, Fox said. However the fact that all the water had leaked out of the tank, making it much lighter, reduced the chances it would fall anytime soon, Fox said.

But Sedgwick Street remained blocked off between Huron and Erie, and the parking lot and alley near the tower were also roped off.

Modern water pumps have mostly replaced the old water towers such as the one on Huron, but it is one of over a hundred still functioning water tanks atop buildings in the city. Most only supply water to sprinkler systems using gravity during fire emergencies. All the tanks were inspected after one of them toppled eight stories from a Lakeview apartment building at Diversey and Pine Grove last July, injuring a woman.


Twitter: @Artgolab

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