Reporter’s Notebook: Every part of city life impacted by water crisis

Published 10:40 am Thursday, May 18, 2017

Below is a collection of notes and information collected by Post reporters Wednesday and Thursday in regards to the widespread water outage.

Hospital operations not affected

“Though Merit Health River Region’s West Campus is affected by the water main break, this does not affect the main hospital,” Merit Health’s Abby Brand said. “We are fully prepared to accommodate the needs of our patients, visitors and employees located at our West Campus.

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

“We have plans in place for many types of scenarios, including water-related emergencies, which include having water trucks onsite to keep air conditioning, plumbing and sewers operational, and maintaining plenty of bottled water and ice to supply patients and staff.”

Still “open for business’

Gerad Hardy, general manager at Ameristar, said the casino is “open for business.”

“We have set up alternate restrooms and are serving bottled water and canned sodas on the casino floor,” Hardy said. “And, we are going to have at least one restaurant open with a limited menu.”

Hardy said the casino has plans regardless of the length of the water emergency.

“We are in a position to handle either a short-term or long-term outage,” he said.

As for the hotel, Hardy simply said they would continue to “meet health code requirements.”

Later Wednesday, Ameristar announced they were no longer taking reservations at their hotel

Officials at Riverwalk, Lady Luck and Waterview casinos were unavailable.

Resident frustrated with no information

Jimmy Melton, who lives on Clifton Road, noticed a problem Wednesday when his water pressure was low and then, the water was gone.

The outage, problematic enough, was not what frustrated Melton.

“No nothing,” Melton said, when he called the city’s water department. He said the number was busy and that there was no message telling he and other customers what had happened.

Melton said he also called other city departments without getting any answer or information.

“They need to set up some kind of alert message on the phones, so when you call you can get some information,” Melton said, admitting he is not signed up on the city’s Code Red system. “Never heard about Code Red,” he said.

As for being prepared for the outage, Melton said he says prepared.

“I have about five gallons of water always on hand for drinking, cooking,” Melton said. “I refill it every week. If I don’t use the water by the end of the week, I go out and water the flowers with it and then refill it.”

Making the best of a bad situation

While area residents were concerned about the availability of water for their families, hotel operators were facing a much different challenge, as they had countless customers to contact, help and make comfortable in a tough situation.

“We have been working throughout the day to contact customers with reservations, letting them know of the water outage and letting them cancel their reservations without penalty,” Lynn Foley, Director of Sales for Southern Hospitality Services, said.

Southern Hospitality Services manages Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn Express and Comfort Suites.

“For those who are deciding to stay with us, we are providing bottled water and Baby Wipes for sponge baths,” Foley said. “We are also siphoning water out of the swimming pools in order to be able to flush toilets.

“We have had a lot of cancellations and this is having a negative impact on our business.”

Other hotels throughout Vicksburg were reporting similar cancellations and work notifying customers.

Outage forcing appointments to be rescheduled

The water outage did affect some medical outlets, with some dentist’s offices having to close and reschedule appointments.

The Post contacted many of the dentists within the affected area, with most of them reporting they were closing, rescheduling appointments and taking a wait-and-see approach to appointments scheduled later this week.

These calls were made before the city announced the outage could last for as many as five days.

Recreational sports affected by outage

The high school sports season is over, but the water outage has affected recreational sports in Vicksburg.

The Vicksburg Girls Softball Association has cancelled its games until the situation is resolved. The Vicksburg YMCA closed early Wednesday and planned to reopen Thursday at noon. The status of its teeball games scheduled for Thursday was undecided.

Warren County Courthouse remains closed

The Warren County Courthouse is closed Thursday, but county officials have said they would attempt to open the courthouse for business Friday.

These notes were compiled by the staff of The Post’s newsroom.