Faucets ran dry for about 50 Tuolumne area water customers yesterday after service to their houses had to be shut off while a broken main was repaired.

The broken Tuolumne Utilities District main at the intersection of Bodenhammer Avenue and Oak Street was reported by a homeowner around 8 a.m. yesterday, said Jimmy Castle, TUD foreman of operations maintenance.

Leonard Mauro, TUD operations manager, said this morning that the break was caused by a hole in rusted piece of steel pipe. Castle said broken mains are not uncommon because there are old pipes and other infrastructure in place throughout the county.

Castle said he expected customers in the residential neighborhood southwest of Tuolumne would have water again by 3 p.m. yesterday. Water was restored at 2:45 p.m. Customers weren't notified that they would be out of water because it was an emergency that had to be handled right away, Castle said.

When the main broke, water came through the pavement and ran into drains, but no property was damaged.

Violet Moore, 80, who lives on Bodenhammer Avenue less than a block from the broken main, said the gushing water was quite a site.

"It was just like a flood this morning," she said. "It ran for about two and a half hours like a big river."

She said she figures the pipes have been in place since the Gold Rush era, and problems are bound to happen.

But she and her cats and chickens were making do without county water for a while, using bottled water for drinking.

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