Heavy rains overwhelm steam tunnel system leaving 185 Milwaukee buildings without heat, hot water

NOW: Heavy rains overwhelm steam tunnel system leaving 185 Milwaukee buildings without heat, hot water

Updated: 10:36 p.m. on May 20, 2020

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Crews are reportedly making significant progress on restoring steam services in downtown Milwaukee. 

We Energies says they expect to restore services to a third of the affected buildings by early Thursday morning.

Giant steam plumes were seen along the freeway Monday after heavy rainfall caused the sewer and deep tunnels to become filled with water.

Crews expect to restore the rest of the buildings by midnight Thursday night.


Posted: 6:36 p.m. on May 19, 2020

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- For two days now, people who live in downtown Milwaukee have been without hot water and heat. 

It's due to the heavy rainfall over the weekend, overwhelming the steam tunnel system.

Right now, crews are working on pumping hundreds of gallons of water from the underground pipes.

We Energies says something went wrong because of the heavy rainfall.

The sewer and deep tunnels are filled with water. This includes the steam tunnels which are used to provide heat and hot water for about 400 buildings in the downtown area.

It's mostly impacting people east of the Milwaukee River.

Although crews made efforts to pump the water out Monday, it kept rushing back in. 

Right now, We Energies can't exactly say when customers will have hot water again.

"It's too hard to say at this point, and we want to be open with people," said Brendan Conway, We Energies spokesman. "We don't know because we don't know what the problem's gonna be and we don't know how long it's gonna take to get rid of the water."

We Energies says crews will continue to work around the clock to fix the problem. Once all the water is removed, they will be able to inspect the affected areas and make the needed repairs.

They say the 185 buildings impacted by the steam outage will remain remain without service until then.

This has not affected electric and natural gas service.

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