The city warned brown water may begin to flow in St. James following a large water main break overnight Monday.

As of 1 p.m. on Tuesday, two roads in the area remained temporarily closed as crews continued their clean-up.  

The overnight water main break closed an eight-block radius in St. James.

The impacted routes include St. Matthews Avenue between Berry and King Edward streets, plus Berry Street between St. Matthews and Silver avenues.

While the water main was repaired in the afternoon, the city closed eastbound lanes of St. Matthews Avenue between Roseberry and Parkview streets.

Lanes of traffic were expected to open later on Tuesday as the water is cleared.

Crews have already worked for hours to repair the damage, then sand and scrape surfaces, in order to open up the streets to traffic.

Homes flooded, business halted

Four homes just off St. Matthews on Parkview and Roseberry have water damage inside and out. One of them is David Gunson's house, which is right next to where the water main broke.

“The neighbours called us and said, ‘You better get home fast, because there's water rushing out of your house,’” he said. "I've seen some water main breaks, but this was a lot of water."

Water got into Gunson’s basement, and some of his belongings got wet. Contractors are going to tear up the carpet and replace the drywall.

"It's washed away most of my lawn, the patio blocks on the side of the house. The garage is covered in ice, like an ice rink. The backyard is covered in ice."

Gunson believes he may be on the hook for the insurance deductible, and he doesn't think that's right. "We pay enough in taxes. We should have somebody fixing the pipes and the roads on a regular basis for us, I think."

Nick Cannizzaro, manager of Canada Car Color Inc. on St. Matthews Avenue, told CTV News the business has no running water due to the water main break.

While the city dropped off temporary water for the business to use, Cannizzaro said he was told it would take two days to return to normal. 

Work was halted at Clear Collision autobody repair centre because the water flooded their lot and they couldn't get the fence open to get vehicles in for painting.

“We've got customers we were trying to get in here this morning…and we actually had to end up cancelling because of the ice and the water,” said Andrew Plew, an automotive painter with Clear Collision.

Brown water woes

Residents who notice discoloured water should turn on the cold water tap and let the water run for a few minutes; the city suggests using a bathtub tap as there’s no screen to trap sediment.

It also recommends catching some water in a light-coloured cup. If the water isn’t clear, residents are told to shut off the tap, wait 30 minutes and try again.

The city said discoloured water shouldn’t last long; however, if water remains unclear for two to three hours, residents should contact 311.

Fewer water main breaks so far in 2016

The number of water main breaks in January and February of 2016 were lower than in any of the previous six years, according to the City of Winnipeg.

In total, there were 48 water main breaks in January-February this year. That’s slightly fewer than the 58 during the same period in 2015, and significantly fewer than 169 breaks in 2014.

A city spokesperson said water main breaks are usually caused by external corrosion of the pipe, combined with extreme weather changes that cause the soil to swell and contract, putting pressure on the weakened pipes.

- With a report by Michelle Gerwing