VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) — Too much water will mean none at all for almost 30,000 customers in and around Vicksburg for five days or more.
The line carrying treated water from the city’s water plant to all customers broke Wednesday morning in an area that’s currently flooded by a Mississippi River backwater. With no way to deliver clean water, the city shut down its pipes.
“We have absolutely no water anywhere in Vicksburg,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Flaggs said that the city now must build a levee around the ruptured line and pump floodwater out of a low-lying area before repairs can begin. He said repairs are likely to take at least until Monday.
Faucets also were dry in the neighboring Yokena-Jeff Davis Water District, which buys its water from Vicksburg. Schools sent students home and will be closed for the rest of the week. Many restaurants shut their doors. Casinos remained open, although some closed restaurants or hotels.
Vicksburg Fire Chief Charles Atkins said volunteer fire departments in Warren County have agreed to bring water to fight any fires.
People flocked to supermarkets to snap up bottled water. Piggly Wiggly owner James Morgan told The Vicksburg Post that he brought bottled water from a store he owns across the Mississippi River in Louisiana.
“We couldn’t get them off the truck,” Morgan said. “They bought them before we got them off the pickup truck.”
Flaggs said officials will distribute water to residents starting Thursday. For those unable to come to distribution points, city police and sheriff’s deputies promised home deliveries.
The mayor and the city’s two aldermen will meet Thursday morning to declare an emergency, allowing the city to pay for repairs without taking bids. However, dump trucks were already delivering dirt to build the dam on Wednesday afternoon. Flaggs said the city would have to build a 500-foot levee before workers can begin pumping water out.
Customers will be ordered to boil their water once service is restored because of the loss of pressure.
The city saw widespread outages in 2013 and 2015 after equipment problems at the decades-old treatment plant, prompting city approval of expensive upgrades. Flaggs said Wednesday’s burst water main is not related to those problems.