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National Guard distributes bottled water

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National Guard hands out water at Cocoa Beach High School. By Jim Waymer. Sept. 13, 2017.
Wochit

COCOA BEACH — Taps trickled back online Wednesday for Jeremy and Dana Hutcherson and others along the Space Coast’s barrier islands, bringing a collective cleansing to a parched, increasingly gritty island life and easing misery for thousands.

Pools, tubs and other containers substituted for the running water so often taken for granted. The past few days have been hot, grimy, showerless and flush-free, after Hurricane Irma knocked out water service early Monday for Cocoa’s 82,000 customers, including those on Cocoa Beach. 

People had to improvise to keep clean. So did “Dixie,” the Hucherson’s black Labrador, leaping chin-deep into their pool, chomping at the water, then shaking off. Like thousands of Brevardians, the Hutchersons went days without water, and still lacked power. Although they were among the many who endured this week’s heat without air conditioning, water or power, they’re not sweating Irma’s aftermath too much.

“It’s bearable. We can’t complain. We know the guys are busting butt, they’re working 24-7,” Jeremy Hutcherson said. Their water had just come back on, but remained under a boil advisory. 

But problems keep popping up. Wednesday morning, city workers found a large main break on a major water transmission line along State Road 520, according to a statement by the City of Cocoa. Cocoa utility crews were isolating the area, which should cause water to rise in south Cape Canaveral and from Cocoa Beach to Patrick Air Force Base. 

Crews say they will work to restore water pressure on Merritt Island by late Wednesday.

Utility workers discovered a low-pressure area under the 520 causeway on State Road A1A Tuesday night, but were unable to identify the specific location of the break at that time. They believed it was located under the lagoon.

By about 12:30 p.m., utilities crews had opened valves to flow water toward South Merritt Island, in the Sykes Creek area only, and water pressure was expected to increase gradually in that area within hours, according to the city’s Facebook page. Two additional 36-inch transmission line breaks were found under the lagoon, city officials said. Crews continued working on isolating valve to maintain system pressure and continue to expand water pressure service into Merritt Island. 

When pipes break in the lagoon, the city uses a diver to fix them. 

“We don’t know the extent at this point,” Samantha Senger, a city spokeswoman, said via email of the line breaks in the lagoon.

Exactly how Hurricane Irma broke the lines underneath the lagoon remains uncertain. “Could be the storm surge or a number of other things. We can’t tell at this point,” Senger said. “Right now we are isolating around the break to get water to customers in that area. Fixing that will happen later.”

Meanwhile, the National Guard handed out bottled water at Cocoa High School.

“About an hour ago, it just started trickling in our house, enough to fill the toilets, so we can actually flush for the first time in several days,” said a relieved Chris McCall, a Cocoa Beach resident. He and his wife, Tracy, and son, Ryan, showed up at the high school Wednesday just to express their gratitude to the National Guard for all their help in the community.

The McCalls missed the usual comforts of Cocoa Beach living this week.

“We’re all extremely grimy,” Chris McCall said. “Even the trickling water you not supposed to drink or brush your teeth or anything with … It’s not running enough to take a shower with, obviously.”

Lacking a pool, they filled their tub and five-gallon buckets before the storm.

“But the bathtub doesn’t hold water as well as you would think.” It slowly went down over a day or so,” McCall said. “Then you just didn’t flush, unless it got really bad.”

City officials estimate it still may take another day or two to restore water to most customers. Flooding has made it tricky to spot line breaks, and it will take at least two days after running water is restored for boil water advisories to be lifted.

Melbourne, Brevard County’s other major water supplier, urged customers to only use water for basic health and hygiene or potential boil notices would be needed.

As crews continue to find breaks and test system integrity, customers may see pressure fluctuations, which is normal,” city officials said.

The Hutchersons aren’t complaining. They know Irma’s wrath could have been way worse.

“Yeah, it’s not fun, but we can hardly complain,” Jeremy Hutcherson said, standing next to his bent pool screen frame. “We survived it. We didn’t lose our house. We’ve got water back this morning.” 

Contact Waymer at 321-242-3663 or jwaymer@floridatoday.com Follow him on Twitter@JWayEnviro and at facebook.com/jim.waymer. Rick Neale contributed to this story.

Can you use your dishwasher?

  • Cryptosporidium on equipment/utensils/tableware may be disinfected using dishwashing machines that have a dry cycle or a final rinse that exceeds 113°F for 20 minutes or 122°F for 5 minutes or 162°F for 1 minute.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What are the do’s and don’ts during and after a boil water notice? Visit:

  • www.cdc.gov/parasites/crypto/health_professionals/bwa/public.html

Need water?

The City of Cocoa in coordination through the State of Florida has arranged for the Florida Army National Guard to provide four bottled water distribution points today (Sept. 13) for customers affected by the loss of water pressure from Hurricane Irma.

The following sites will be providing bottled water (1 case per vehicle) beginning this morning from 7a.m. to 7 p.m until the supplies are depleted.

  • City of Cocoa, 801 Dixon Blvd., Cocoa, (Entrance South bound lane of U.S. 1);
  • Cocoa Beach, 1500 Minuteman Blvd., Cocoa Beach,  (Minuteman Causeway at A1A);
  • Cape Canaveral, 8550 Astronaut Blvd., Cape Canaveral, (Northbound lane of Astronaut Blvd.);
  •  Merritt Island, 785 East Merritt Island Causeway, Merritt Island, FL 32952 (South Sykes Creek Blvd.)

This is an effort to help provide bottled drinking water as the city works to restore water service. Even when water returns to your home, remember that the city’s system remains under a precautionary boil water alert for the entire water system.

For the latest updates, visit www.CocoaFL.org/hurricane or our social media pages (@CityofCocoaGovernment on Facebook and @CityofCocoa on Twitter).

 

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