NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Streets turned into rivers and more than a dozen cars were damaged when a water main broke last night in Lower Manhattan.

Cleanup is underway, but some roads were still closed for the morning commute.

The 30-foot main burst shortly before 5 p.m. Monday near South Street and Catherine Slip, in between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges.

“I got here at 5-o-clock, and it was flooded,” car owner Amy Permenen told CBS2. “Yeah, I’m really upset.”

“People’s cars are under water and they don’t even know,” car owner Tomara Thomas said.

“My car, as you can see, is drowned,” another person added. “I want to get home. It’s raining, I’m out here in rain, possibility of getting sick, I work in the morning.”

(Credit: CBS2)

The water overflowed for hours, because the Department of Environmental Protection had a hard time closing a valve.

“There’s a construction site right here under South Street, under the underpass to the FDR Drive, and it made it difficult for us to get to that valve,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza.

For neighbor Juan Garcia, the scene brought back bad memories.

“It looked like it was like Sandy all over again,” he said. “It was nonstop.”

Car owner Michael Dobbins said the water just kept rising.

“When I left, it was about up to the wheel well,” he said. “That was last night. So I’m sure it got higher than that. I don’t know. They roped off the scene. I couldn’t even walk down the street here. The water was all the way up to the street, too.”

This was the fourth major water main break in a month, following one last week in Morningside Heights.

Back in January, another on Central Park West had Upper West Side residents saying, “not again,” after a massive one around Lincoln Center that spilled into an underground parking garage and nearby buildings.

“I think it’s the city’s fault,” Thomas said.

The DEP commissioner said the city replaces, on average, one mile of water mains each week.

“It’s big city – we have 6,800 miles of water mains though, and breaks do happen,” said Sapienza. “New York City actually does a terrific job in keeping the number of water main breaks to a minimum. We’re much lower than the national average.”

Officials say if you notice your water is discolored this morning, run it until it’s clear – then it’s safe to drink.

Anyone who sustained damage can file a claim with the comptroller’s office. To do so, click here.

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