Leaning water tower prompts evacuations from River North buildings

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water tower

A roof top water tower is scheduled to be removed after high winds caused it to tip — sending a cascade of water into a nearby building.

It flooded a five-story office building at 409 W. Erie Friday night. Nearly 200 workers in the flooded building and a neighboring building were evacuated.

The city told WGN News the building failed its most recent annual inspection on December 31st, which included failing to properly maintain that tower.

Police widened the perimeter around the fire suppression tank that stood empty but remained unstable, That rakish angle a not-so-subtle hint that the heavy, aging wooden structure could at any moment come tumbling down

Courtney Jurick was forced to evacuate, “Well, we were sitting there working, ha, and all of a sudden we just heard a sound- it almost sounded like the sink had exploded and before you know it, there’s just water pouring out.”

Dr. Ilan Tur-Kaspa was also forced to evacuate, “And immediately within two or three minutes, somebody from the building management came and said there’s a water flood and you guys need to evacuate.”

Staff on the building’s top floor at public relations firm Serafin and Associates shot photos and video on their way out, as up to 18,000 gallons of water poured from the ruptured tank over, and into, their building. Serafin’s offices, recently renovated, have some serious damage now.

Chicago Fire doesn’t know how old the tank is. We do know others like it around the city go back a-hundred years or so. It is a charming architectural symbol of days gone by but not something that gets better with age.

Chief Michael Fox, Special Operations, Chicago Fire Department  said “The building department’s making their assessment but with the water gone, that’s a lot of weight that’s taken off of it; so it’s a lot safer than it was a couple hours ago.”

No one was injured, but again, the building’s owner, according to the city, has code violations, some of them related to maintaining that tower.

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