100-Year-Old Water Main Break Results in Flooding and Outages in NE Portland

March 18, 2019

By Erik Linask - Group Editorial Director

Aging infrastructure can pose problems for any business, which is why proper maintenance and management is critical to ensuring operational continuity.  There are times, however, events outside any company’s sphere of influence cause unexpected situations to disrupt business.  That is what happened in Portland, Oregon, over the weekend, when a 30-inch water main in broke flooding a neighborhood in Northeast Portland.

The pipe was more than a century old and, according to Portland Fire & Rescue, resulted in one million gallons of water per minute pouring into the streets.  While the pipe was not a service main and did not cause any service disruptions, it did cause outages in the area when PF&R requested that electrical service be shut down.

Workers arrived on the scene at 11:30 Saturday morning and quickly began working on shutting valves to stop the flow to that point in the main.  Not unlike the pipe itself, many of them were old and had not been shut in decades, making then hard to operate.  By 7:00pm, the flooding had been controlled enough so that power to the majority of customers, though some were still out due to damaged equipment.

Businesses in the area, however, had already suffered lost businesses.  Restaurants, in particular, felt the impact when they were not only able to operate but faced spoiled food due to the lack of power.  Fayren Change, co-owner of Just Bob cafe, said she lost thousands in business, calling the outage “pretty devastating,” especially considering Saturday tends to be a busy day for restaurants and, with St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, many look to start their celebrations early.

There’s little businesses can do to prevent outages, and while business disruption comes with a cost, there are steps every company can take the limit their exposure once power is restored.  That includes insulating systems from damaging surges when power goes out.  Power protection systems are designed to regulate voltage before it hits equipment, eliminating risk of damage to sensitive circuitry.  In addition UPS systems can provide backup power for a period to allow proper shutdown of systems to reduce the change of equipment damage or data corruption when power is restored.

Businesses should also back up data regularly – daily is ideal – to ensure that even if anything is lost, systems and information can be restored to the most recent backup.  In addition to power protection solutions for safeguarding infrastructure, businesses can look to cloud providers for a number of business continuity solutions, including backup as well as communications services and other business applications.  Delivered through a cloud model, these applications will be available to employees anywhere, so even if power is out, most operations can continue seamlessly until it is restored.

Edited by Maurice Nagle