For about 20 seconds the pavement on Royal Hawaiian Avenue in Waikiki swelled into a 6-foot-high mound.
"Then swoosh," said Michiko Ishizawa, manager of jewelry store Hana Lima, describing the geyser that erupted.
Water burst from a 12-inch water main break at 11:24 a.m., closing Royal Hawaiian between Kuhio Avenue and Waikolu Way, flooding shops and turning the street into a knee-deep stream.
A large swath of pavement was torn up. Royal Hawaiian was closed into the evening.
Ishizawa said she and a co-worker closed the doors but that water still seeped through. They used mops and brooms to try to keep the water from the back storage room.
"Ten minutes later we could not do anything," Ishizawa said. She pointed to her shin, indicating how high the water rose in her store. "For 45 minutes there was water."
Boxed-up merchandise in the storage room appeared to have suffered extensive water damage. The store was still in the process of moving into the Royal Hawaiian Avenue location from the International Market Place.
Four area businesses were without water service as of yesterday afternoon, but a water wagon was available. Royal Hawaiian Center businesses were out of water during the morning, but service was restored in the afternoon.
Repairs to the main were expected to continue overnight.
"We won’t know what happened until after we can do excavation or have our crews out there," Board of Water Supply spokesman Keoni Mattos said. "It is a 12-inch main, one of our larger water mains. It was a full blowout."
Mattos said it was unlikely that the break was caused by age. "When I looked at it, I believe this one was installed in 2003," he said. "It could be a number of reasons."
City Managing Director Douglas Chin said the Board of Water Supply will make capital improvement projects a priority.
"What happened (yesterday) is a reminder that the city’s primary budgetary focus must be on updating the city’s aging infrastructure, whether it is sewers, the water system or its public roads, even during tough times," Chin said.
Board of Water Supply officials sent a risk management director to talk to business owners about damage claims, Mattos said.
"Depending on the investigation, we will reimburse the businesses," he said.
Water went halfway up the motorcycles at Chase Hawaii Rentals, and might have gotten into some transmissions, operator Nik Chase said.
The store, located directly in front of the water main break, rents Harley-Davidson motorcycles, mo-peds and bicycles.
"We got some water damage in our store," said Chase, whose brother Brent owns the business. "That’s two feet of water you’re standing in, in less than a minute."
Brent Chase said the road looked like a "miniature volcano" just before the water erupted.
"The amazing thing was the swell of the road," he said. "Probably went up a good six feet."
Business slowed to a trickle, but the gaping hole did attract passing tourists, who stopped to pose for pictures with it.
"So we get a little bit of visibility out of it," Brent Chase said. "It might help us out tomorrow. But not today."