GATESVILLE — Public water was temporarily cut off to the Gatesville area Monday, prompting officials to place portable toilets in front of the Coryell County Courthouse and causing residents to stock up on bottled water.
By the afternoon, workers started connecting a portable 2400-kilowatt generator to the city’s disabled intake structure at Belton Lake to restore water service to 20,000 customers in and around Gatesville, Assistant City Manager Luis Lobo said.
“Within the hour, the generator will be attached and I will be smiling from ear to ear,” Lobo said at 4:30 p.m. Monday. “We should be pumping water within the next four hours.
“We will have water (today),” he said, “but it will take 24 to 30 hours to catch up our storage.”
The intake structure lost electrical power Sunday, Lobo said. Oncor, the power provider, was unable to restore power and diagnosed the problem as a faulty cable.
Lobo said the city will use the portable backup generator until Oncor fixes the permanent power system.
The intake structure feeds lake water into pumps to be processed and distributed to customers in Gatesville, Coryell City, Flat, The Grove, South Mountain and Fort Gates, Lobo said.
Not all areas lost water pressure, he said, and many users had stored water to use.
“Our areas of concern — the hospital, nursing homes, schools — were well covered,” Lobo said.
“We will have school (today),” Superintendent Stewart Speer said. “We had water all day on our campus and in our cafeteria. We have a well on campus and we will draw barrels of water to use to flush toilets.”
The city issued a mandatory water-conservation order Monday morning, prompting several local restaurants to close until water pressure was restored.
Four portable toilets were placed on the courthouse square, two more were placed outside the courthouse annex and several more were placed outside the county jail for use by inmates and sheriff’s department staff.
Cautious residents loaded grocery carts with bottled water at the local H-E-B store, where employees hustled to keep up with the demand.
Several portable toilets were parked in front of the store for customers.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice set up a command center to respond to the water outage, which impacts the six prison units in Gatesville, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark.
The 8,246 inmates at the six units were confined to housing areas due to the outage, Clark said.
“We will be feeding sack lunches until water pressure returns,” he said.
Three of the units — Crain, Hilltop and Mountain View — had water pressure at 1 p.m. Monday, he said, but three others — Hughes, Woodman and Murray — did not.
Eighteen water tankers from Region 6 were dispatched to the area along with two tankers from the surrounding area, Clark said, and 40,000 bottles of water were acquired.
Portable toilets were rented for use by inmates and staff.
North Fort Hood experienced “little to no effect” from the outage, said Tyler Broadway, a Fort Hood spokesman.
“We have 2.5 million gallons of water stored, which is enough for four or five days,” Broadway said. “We have asked those working at North Fort Hood to conserve water during the outage.”