Cars snaked around the Lake Charles Civic Center on Thursday, turning in from as many outlets into the parking lot as possible. The temperature with the wind chill factor – and the wind was relentless – 28 degrees. Rosy-cheeked United Way employees, volunteers and interns and Lake Charles law enforcement officers funneled traffic into two lanes. One young man ran out of gasoline waiting in line.
The United Way was giving out 700 cases of bottled water on a first come, first-served basis, beginning at 1 p.m.
The water shortage is due to low-water pressure because of water leaks discovered once temperatures began to rise, and because residents dripped faucets to avoid busted pipes as a result of Winter Storm Viola. Lake Charles officials have requested residents conserve water, and not drip faucets during current higher temperatures, so the pressure and levels can rebuild. Water was turned off in some areas to make repairs.
“It’s just drip, drip, drip at my house and I couldn’t find water at any of the stores,” said Maggie Conner, in line for water.
At around 1:45, Frances Foster had been in line for 45 minutes, and will probably wait another 30 minutes for her case of water.
Denise Durrell feels fortunate that United Way of Southwest Louisiana could find this much water on short notice.
“Around 9 a.m. the mayor called and asked us if we could get water,” Durrell said, directing employees and volunteers to keep the line moving, safely. “In about 30 minutes we had a plan and put it into place. I put my team members on standby and it’s amazing how many have shown up to work.”
Intern Kira Trahan appeared to be numb from the cold wind.
“I am happy to help,” she said. “We have water at home.”
The United Way of Southwest Louisiana is working on the logistics for a second day of distribution tomorrow.
On Feb. 23, United Way of Southwest Louisiana will be hosting a grocery and hot meal giveaway at the Lake Charles Civic Center.