Update: Steam line bursts in downtown Duluth
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.”
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.