Frozen fountain

A fountain outside Robichaux, Mize, Wadsack, Richardson & Watson, LLC  and Iron Clad Title’s courtyard is frozen after a winter storm moved through the area this week.

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter urged residents to shut off their faucets Wednesday to get water pressure back to normal levels. Water pressure citywide has been low since a harsh winter storm caused widespread power outages and depleted the city’s water reserves.

“It’s really going to take the public hearing this urgent message and the urgent call to please conserve water,” Hunter said. “Until people heed that call, we’re going to be in this situation.”

Kevin Heise, city utilities manager, said every water plant in Lake Charles is operating normally, putting out more than 18 million gallons of treated water. That’s double the daily amount normally produced by the plants.

As of Wednesday, roughly 150 residential leaks have been shut off, and one “significant” water main in south Lake Charles was being repaired, Heise said.

Officials at local hospitals have said they are reaching a “critical level” in terms of water availability, Hunter said. If it doesn’t improve, patients will have to be moved to other hospitals. He said local hospitals had to deny requests by Southeast Texas hospitals to move their patients here because of similar water problems.

Mayors across the state and in Texas are dealing with the same water issues, with more than 100 Louisiana systems under a boil advisory, Hunter said. Some systems in Louisiana have completely shut off their water, he said.

“It’s not a fun club to be in, but we are not alone,” Hunter said.

Water issues began after a “complete citywide blackout” Tuesday with no advance warning by Entergy, Hunter said. While the water plants were switching to generator power, the city’s water reserves were depleted, he said.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of conversation moving forward about how much advance notice municipalities can receive, should this happen again,” Hunter said. “Had there been advance notice, we certainly could have done more to prepare and to get our plants on generator power before every single plant at one time was stripped of its power source.”

Hunter said the city’s fire department has plans in place when a drop in water pressure occurs.

"We’re continuing to work with Mayor Hunter’s office to provide advanced notice prior to any further outages," said Margaret Harris, a customer service manager for Entergy. "Conversations are ongoing on how we can best work with the city to communicate more effectively before these types of event,"

She said while Entergy makes "every reasonable effort to provide as much notice as possible to customers regarding outages as a result of load shed, unfortunately we can’t always do that."

"As we’ve shared, load shedding is a last resort and may be a result of extreme or emergent issues requiring immediate action. When the order to execute outages by MISO is received, the execution of those outages follows quickly and is necessary," she said.

Frozen or broken pipes will be easy to spot as they begin to thaw out, Heise said. To report leaks or have your water shut off, call the city at 491-1483.

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