COMANCHE COUNTY, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The only steady stream running through the county is one made of cars, their drivers picking up bottle after bottle of water from the relief station in the shadow of the Comanche County courthouse. The streams that remain dry, however, are the ones running through the city’s water pipes after a Monday afternoon water-main break that lead to a disaster declaration from county and city leaders.
The county’s emergency management team, much like water workers, have been working tirelessly to assist how they can in this time of disaster.
The disaster began after utility company, Oncor, struck the city’s water main near the intersection of US Highway 377 and FM 3381 at 4 pm Monday. According to Comanche Mayor Mary Boyd, that break was “capped off” by 4 am Tuesday, but once the water was turned back on more problems spurted forth.
“Like most other counties in the West-Central Texas region we have older water infrastructure. So when we brought the city back online we started breaking more lines. We spent [Tuesday] morning thinking we’d come back easily, instead we didn’t,” said Mayor Boyd.
Mayor Boyd says workers have since repaired the lines, but the town will remain dry until reserve levels reach about 50-feet high. Once the level reaches that height (it had dipped down to 15 or 18 feet says Mayor Boyd) the water can be tested for its viability and, if it tests well, water services can be restored.
Mayor Boyd says the water is likely to be restored by the end of the day on Friday, but residents can help the process along by keeping their taps shut tight.
“It is an inconvenience, but at the same time I feel like we don’t have any other option than to ask our citizens to cut back for us,” said Mayor Boyd.
Inmates from the Comanche County jail were evacuated from the facility and are being housed in Erath County until the water woes trickle out.
“Bear with us, we’ll have them back over here once things are back to normal,” said Sherriff Jeff Lambert,
Most Comanche businesses “Open” signs were flicked on Wednesday afternoon, alongside those neon greetings were also notices about the water. Mattdaddy’s, a restaurant in the square, has a notice taped to its front door reading:
“Due to the water break we will only be serving bottled water.”just one notice from a Comanche business about the water-main break
Behind Mattdaddy’s tall, wooden counter is a small blockade of water bottles. Veronica Evans, who works at the eatery, says she and other restaurant staff have tried their best to adapt to the water problem as best as they can.
“We have a few hundred water bottles in case we do get hit. We’re using those to make coffee and ice waters that’s all we’re really doing,” said Evans.
Just outside the restaurant’s front door, the street is blocked off for a water-relief station. A drive-thru line allows residents to pick up cases of bottled water, a nearby water tanker allows those that bring their own receptacles the chance to take water home to flush their toilets, and a small army of a dozen-or-so green portable toilets stand at attention in the middle of the city’s square. Sheila Cubbage had volunteers pack her truck with a couple of cases, and says she hopes the drying times won’t last much longer in her city – it’s kind of a buzzkill.
“Come visit Comanche, when we’re not short of water we have a lot of fun,” said Cubbage.
It is not yet known just how much the water-main break will cost, and who exactly is paying for it, Mayor Boyd says leaders’ primary focus is on getting through the disaster as quickly as possible.