Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

Update: Steam line bursts in downtown Duluth

1 / 4
burst steam pipe in front of the Fond-Du-Luth Casino in downtown Duluth sends a plume of water vapor into the air early Wednesday morning. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)2 / 4
Duluth firefighters and Fond-Du-Luth Casino employees monitor the steam explosion that occurred early Wednesday morning. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)3 / 4
A ruptured steam pipe in front of the Fond-Du-Luth Casino blasted through a section of sidewalk and may also have caused damage to a section of adjacent Superior Street. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)4 / 4

A steam line in downtown Duluth burst Wednesday morning, sending a steam plume at least 100 feet in the air and leaving some nearby buildings without heat and hot water.

The steam line burst under the sidewalk of 100 E. Superior St. in front of the Fond-du-Luth Casino and East Superior Street Public Ramp at around 6:50 a.m., according to the Duluth Fire Department. No one was injured. The burst blew a hole in the sidewalk and strewed cobblestone bricks onto the surrounding street and sidewalk.

The 100 block of East Superior Street was closed to traffic Wednesday morning as crews assessed the damage and turned the steam line off, but it was reopened Wednesday afternoon as an excavator dug around the burst steamline.

Kris Johansen, an operations manager for Duluth Energy Systems, said the steam line running under Superior Street from First Avenue East to Third Avenue East was shut down overnight so an additional steam line could be added to the Greysolon Plaza ahead of the second phase of Superior Street reconstruction.

The lines cooled overnight and likely burst when hot steam was reintroduced, Johansen said.

“In doing so, there must have been some flex in the line from hot to cold, which popped one of our expansion joints,” Johansen said.

Johansen said the expansion joints on the steam line are designed to flex like a spring.

“It must have gotten too cold,” Johansen said. “And when we started it back up, it made it pop.”

Steam escapes from a broken line on Superior Street on Wednesday. (Jimmy Lovrien / DNT)Johansen said repairs could take up to two days.

Across Superior Street at Blacklist Artisan Ales, head brewer Brian Schanzenbach was working in the brewery's basement Wednesday morning when he suddenly lost hot water.

Since steam is needed for the brewing process, he rushed upstairs to report the outage to Duluth Energy Systems.

That’s when he noticed the plume of steam across the street.

"I don't think I need to call them anymore," he joked to the News Tribune while looking out Blacklist’s front door as crews were on the scene.

City-owned Duluth Energy Systems is converting the existing steam line under Superior Street into a hot water system as the street above it is fully reconstructed — everything from the Superior Street road surface to the underground utilities will be new.

Phase one of the project, from Seventh Avenue West to Third Avenue West, was completed last month. Next year, work on Superior Street will continue from Lake Avenue to Fourth Avenue East. And in 2020, the final year of construction, the segment between Third Avenue West and Lake Avenue.

Duluth Energy Systems uses boilers in its Canal Park plant to heat water, then pipes it out to buildings throughout downtown and Canal Park.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

(218) 723-5332