Area at cracked 1M-gallon NH water tank evacuated

By the Associated Press | December 13, 2011 | 4:30 PM EST

ROCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — A fracture and leak in the city's 1 million-gallon water tank led officials who feared it would collapse to evacuate homes, a children's hospital and a small airport on Tuesday.

The leak is at the base of the water tank, which is on the ground, not atop a tower, Rochester City Manager Daniel Fitzpatrick said. The tank didn't appear to be at risk of collapsing, but there was a potential that it could, Fitzpatrick said in an email to city employees.

City officials were draining the tank and advising the city's 30,000 residents their water pressure would be reduced.

Skyhaven Airport, which is just southeast of the city's main business district and has one runway, was evacuated Tuesday morning, an employee said.

"We have to evacuate right now," Nohea Nichols said by telephone. "The fire chief just came in."

Young patients at the Rochester Pediatrics Association, which is affiliated with Frisbie Memorial Hospital, were removed because it's within the quarter-mile radius public officials cleared as a safety precaution.

Frisbie Memorial Hospital emergency nursing director John Levitow said he was unsure how many children were taken from the facility. No patients were taken from the main hospital, he said.

State Sen. Fenton Groen, a Republican whose district includes Rochester, said Frisbie president Al Felgar left the police barricade where they were seeking information to help with the evacuation of the children's hospital. Groen said a police officer at the barricade told him the tank could burst.

Groen said the tank regulates water pressure and serves as a reserve supply of water for the city's residents. He said he didn't expect the city's water supply would be jeopardized.