Lufkin officials asking residents to avoid outdoor watering until Friday

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The brains of the largest Lufkin water plant suffered a heat stroke early Thursday morning.

"We had very little water pressure," Lufkin Deputy City Manager Keith Wright said. "We're not sure exactly how low it got, but we were getting calls from the dialysis people and people from the hospital."

An emergency call went out to all Lufkin landlines asking residents to avoid outdoor watering to help stabilize the system.

Normally at the start of the day, all the water towers across the city are pretty full, but Thursday morning they were all almost completely empty.

"The main breaker is designed for 1,200 amps and we're pulling 1,200 amps," Wright said.

Extreme heat has so many using water, that the continuous pull on the system tripped the breaker. It finally kicked back on. Regardless, a new breaker is coming from Dallas to help avoid a repeat of Thursday morning. The new breaker will be installed once water levels are restored.

"We haven't had rain in a year, so I just told them to look for water on the ground because that's where it's going to be," said Jon Cheatham with the Angelina Neches River Authority.

Just feet down the road from the problems at the Lufkin plant, another crew waded through water, fixing a burst pipe.

"We generally run around 65,000 gallons a day in the Cedar Grove area and over a period of about 20 days from there it had jump to 215,000 gallons," Cheatham said.

They knew they had a problem. The ground is so dry from the drought, when it shifts it's causing pipes to crack.

Water was shut off for a little while to Cedar Grove residents.

"I didn't get up until about 8 and the water was off," Cedar Grove resident Don Presley said.

Water is flowing again, but residents like Presley will have to boil water until Friday when a water sample is expected to come back clear.

"This is the hottest summer I have ever been a witness to in my lifetime," Presley said.

What will help more than anything, crews said is water from the sky, rather than the ground.

Everything should be back to normal in Lufkin by Friday. That's when the boil water notice could also be lifted for Cedar Grove residents.

Not everyone was thrilled with the 6:30 a.m. emergency call from the City of Lufkin notifying them to conserve water, but officials said it was a call that needed to be made.

Patients scheduled for dialysis and surgeries could have been in trouble with no water.

Plus, the crisis left the fire department with a limited capacity to actually extinguish a fire.

Outdoor irrigation pulls the most water from the city's supply, so officials needed residents to stop their sprinklers first thing Thursday morning to help stabilize the system.

"We apologize for waking people up, but we're not really sorry about it," Wright said. "I mean we needed people to cut back water usage and we needed to notify them early because that's when all the sprinkler systems come on."

Citizens are automatically enrolled for emergency alerts on their landlines, but you can sign up for non-emergency alerts, like trash pick-up through "Everbridge Aware for Citizen Alerts."

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