Mississippi Rural Water Aids Hurricane-Ravaged Callaway


CALLAWAY, Fla. – The streets of Callaway, Fla. are lined with piles of debris with power poles and transformers crumpled in the ditches. There is no electricity, but aid from the Mississippi Rural Water Association has helped restore water service and prevented sewer backups in the storm-ravaged community.

MsRWA technicians check a water meter crushed by falling tree.

“Well, we had this hurricane,” said an overwhelmed Bill Frye, public works director for Callaway. “We were completely without power. Uprooted trees pulled up the service lines.”

Without electricity and damaged water lines, the community was completely without water. The power outage also prevented the town’s wastewater lift stations from moving sewage to the treatment plant, risking backups and overflows.

Mississippi Rural Water’s assistance prevented the disaster from becoming a public health threat. It was assistance that Callaway didn’t even know was available.

Tom Abernathy connects an emergency generator.

“I didn’t even know this was a resource that was available,” Frye said. “The director of Bay County Utilities, where we buy our water, he put me in contact with FlaWARN.”

FlaWARN is an emergency response mutual aid network coordinated by the Florida Rural Water Association. The WARN contacted the emergency response professionals from MsRWA and asked them to assist Callaway. They arrived with emergency generators and trained water and wastewater professionals.

“We started shutting off meters and looking for leaks,” said Joe Grammer, an MsRWA Circuit Rider. “You have to isolate the damaged areas so that we can maintain pressure in the rest of the system. “

Parts of the city had significant damage, with uprooted trees pulling up service lines and debris crushing water meters.

“We also marked valves and tried to clear debris away from hydrants so that clean-up crews could avoid them,” said Rickey Parker, an MsRWA Wastewater Technician.

MsRWA’s Tom Abernathy helped connect emergency generators to the wastewater lift stations and wire the sensors so that the pumps would run automatically.

“They’ve been a big help in restoring water and keeping the sewer from overflowing,” Frye said.

Callaway was housing several of its city employees in the community center. Many of their homes were damaged and they were still working to keep the city operating and trying to restore services to the community. MsRWA connected an extra generator to the center to provide lights and air conditioning for those staff.

“They’ve been great,” Frye said. “The guys from Mississippi are all real pros.”