A pre-dawn water main break transformed part of Folsom Street near the University of Colorado campus into a gaping sinkhole Thursday, closing the road for the entire day and disrupting everything from running water at nearby apartments to afternoon pizza runs.

City officials said a 16-inch water main broke around 3:30 a.m. Thursday beneath Folsom near Stadium Drive, collapsing the roadway into a sinkhole that was about 15 feet by 30 feet in size, and cracking the street and sidewalk all the way down to Taft Drive.

Runoff from the break also carried mud and gravel down the street and around the corner of Taft, even burying one SUV's front-right tire.

"It was crazy, I've never seen anything like it," said J.B. Sanchez, property manager at the University Heights apartment complex directly next to the sinkhole. "It's something you expect to see on TV, but not in person."

The damage forced the city to shut down Folsom between Colorado Avenue and Taft as crews worked through the full day and into the night trying to repair the water main. City officials said they hoped to have the road re-opened sometime Friday morning.

Mike Banuelos, a city spokesman, said Thursday's water main break was the second in a year at that same location. Banuelos said crews repaired the break a year ago and put in new piping. He said it was unlikely Thursday's incident was related to the previous break.

'The city is working hard'

In the meantime, work on the sinkhole and the surrounding street made life difficult for nearby residents, most of whom didn't have water for much of the day.

"It's frustrating," Sean O'Grady said. "They blocked off the entrance to the apartment complex. You have to walk all the way around the construction. There's been constant noise."

O'Grady said the condition of the road looked to be getting worse as the day went on.

"It looks really bad," he said. "Hopefully we get it back tomorrow."

Large sections of asphalt are removed because of the damage caused by the  sinkhole on Folsom Street at Stadium Drive.The break in the street  occurred
Large sections of asphalt are removed because of the damage caused by the sinkhole on Folsom Street at Stadium Drive. The break in the street occurred around 3:30 a.m. today on Folsom near Stadium Drive, -- creating a sinkhole about 15 feet by 30 feet and cracked the street and sidewalk all the way down to Taft Drive. (CLIFF GRASSMICK)

Chris Paris learned of the sinkhole when he tried to go out and pick up a pizza he had ordered from Beau Jo's. Because of the repair work, he couldn't get his car out of his apartment complex's parking lot.

"I guess I'll change it to delivery," he said of his pizza order.

While the sinkhole was an inconvenience, Paris said that, after seeing pictures of what it had looked like earlier in the day, he understood the closure.

"It's kind of taped off and right now it looks a little hopeless -- but it was a huge, huge hole," he said. "It's hard to be upset about something that's out of your control."

Sanchez, the apartment complex property manager, said most of the residents realized the damage to the road couldn't be repaired instantly.

Workers look over a sink hole at Stadium Drive and Folsom in Boulder near the football stadium on the CU Boulder Campus Thursday morning.
Workers look over a sink hole at Stadium Drive and Folsom in Boulder near the football stadium on the CU Boulder Campus Thursday morning. (PAUL AIKEN)

"They understand," she said. "They see all this work and obviously it's out of our hands. The city is working very hard."

'Never seen anything like this'

The sinkhole attracted a small crowd of onlookers earlier in the day, with CU students on their way to class and others passing through the area stopping to snap pictures with their phones.

Mike Keuter, who works at CU, said he was trying to get to work on Stadium Drive when he noticed the washout from the break while driving up Folsom.

Keuter said he had seen some sinkholes in more flood-prone parts of southern Colorado, but never in Boulder.

"I've never seen (a sinkhole) this big, not in the middle of a city," Keuter said.

Matt Hallowell and Gregor Henze heard about the sinkhole on the radio, and changed up their morning jog to make sure they could catch a glimpse of it.

"We deviated a little from our route to check it out," Hallowell said.

Added Henze added: "We figured we would check out the first-class entertainment Folsom is offering. I've never seen anything like this."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or byarsm@dailycamera.com.