National Rural Water Association

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Duncan, OK 73533

580-252-0629   FAX 580-255-4476

Contact:  Chris Wilson, nrwacw@nrwa.org

July 8, 2009
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Rural Water assists Mississippi town after tornado

 

By Charles Odom, Circuit Rider, MSRWA
RAYMOND, Miss. – The Mississippi Rural Water Association (MSRWA) staff had been inMagee treatment plant Jackson all week for our annual conference and Thursday was to be our last day.  The conference would end at noon with a lunch of barbecue and banana pudding.  When I came into the lobby of our hotel to check out, I could tell that something was amiss.  Kirby Mayfield, was on the phone and several of his staff was standing around with a look of tragedy on their faces. 
     And a tragedy it was…during the early morning hours while we were sleeping, a tornado ripped through the City of Magee.  The tornado tore through residential and business areas knocking out power to the entire city.  The newest water treatment facility took a direct hit.  Several people were seen at the local hospital but thankfully there were no fatalities.  Kirby found out that Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) was scrambling to get four 140 KW generators to Magee to reestablish their water supply and pump sewage to the wastewater treatment facility.  MEMA could supply the generators but not someone to wire them up.  Kirby sent a wastewater technician and a circuit rider, Donald Thomas and Charles Odom, to hook up the generators.
      We arrived at Magee at 8:30 AM and the generators arrived a few minutes later.  We did a quick assessment of the situation and found the water pressure to be critically low.  We needed to get water into the elevated tanks as soon as possible.  Magee’s wells pump to an aerator for the reduction of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide.  This means that water has to be pumped again by high service pumps to get it into the system.
     Only one well could bypass the treatment plant and pump directly into the system.  Donald and I went there first.  MEMA dropped their generator just outside the gate while we found the necessary valves and redirected the water from the well into the system.  Then we went to work on hooking up the generator.
     City workers got pump leads from an old sewage pump for us to wire the first well up with.  By that time Dale Hart, owner of Mississippi Well Testers, had arrived and finished wiring up the well.  Mr. Hart had heard about the tornado and called the public works director, Jerry Pettis, to volunteer his service free of charge.  Mr. Hart used to be a service technician for Layne Central before stepping out on his own; therefore he was able to make the hookups much faster than Donald and I. After getting the first well going we split up.  Dale and Jerry got the high service pumps wired in and the main sewage pumping station going while Donald and I worked on another well. By 2:30 PM we had all four generators hooked up and running.  Helping out during an emergency is what MSRWA does best.  However, for a contractor to work for free is kind of odd.  Dale Hart definitely has his heart in the right place.
     Once we got things up and running again, we took time to visit the treatment plant destroyed by the tornado.  The havoc and destruction created by a tornado never ceases to amaze me.   This tornado was no exception.  The roof was lifted off the treatment plant building as clean as if skilled carpenters had performed the task.  All the walls were left intact except for the windows.  The contents of the rooms was still there but was completely destroyed.  The elevated tank has a big dent in the bowl.  The dent was probably put there by the cell tower lying on the ground near the base of the tank.
      On our way to Magee I made the comment that I couldn’t believe that the city did not have a generator.  They did have a generator but the tornado got it too.  The new treatment plant site had a well and a generator.  Sometime you think you are prepared…then you get hit with a sucker punch.

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2009 edition of The Faucet, the Mississippi Rural Water Association magazine.

                  

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