Although agencies in Orange County are still focused on rescuing people, Jefferson County has turned to getting necessities to its residents.
That includes a temporary fix of Beaumont’s water system.
“Right now, it’s about trying to return to normal as quickly as possible,” said Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick. “We’re trying to work with federal and state officials to push the assets that are necessary to the points of distribution where people can come get ice, water, MREs, cots, blankets, pillows, cleaning supplies for getting back into their homes and getting them clean.”
Exxon Mobil and two other companies Friday rigged a temporary pump from the Neches River to the city of Beaumont’s water system, restoring water — ranging from a drip to a flow — to residents’ faucets, though officials cautioned that the water crisis is far from over.
When the city lost its water pumps shortly after midnight Thursday because of rapid flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey, Exxon Mobil engineers volunteered to help evaluate possibilities.
Working with two engineering companies, Echo and Tiger Industrial, they were able to get some water flowing early Friday.
Officials cautioned that the fix is temporary and limited.
“It’s OK to flush and bathe with, but we’re asking people to refrain from trying to fill up big containers,” said Mayor Becky Ames. “It helps build pressure.”
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has issued a boil-water notice until future notice. After water is boiled for two minutes, it can be cooled and used for drinking, cooking, washing hands and brushing teeth.
The boil advisory will not be lifted until the distribution center has been flushed, disinfectants such as chlorine are at certain levels, and water samples test negative for germs and bacteria, said the TCEQ’s Andrew Keefe.
Officials remain unsure when water will be restored to the entire city.
The city’s main water pump, just south of Collier’s Ferry Park on Pine Street, remained under water from the swollen Neches River.
That pump provides about 70 percent of the city’s supply. The other 30 percent comes from wells in Hardin County, which also saw torrential rainfall from Tropical Storm Harvey.
The river is expected to have crested at about 21 feet, according to the National Weather Service
“To give you a point of reference, major flooding in Beaumont is normally around 10 feet,” said meteorologist Seth Warthen. “So there will be a few days before it returns to normalcy.”
Officials are unclear when the water will recede enough for crews to check the pumps for damage and repair them, Ames said.
In the meantime, residents have been lining up on foot or in cars at grocery stores and distribution centers across the city for water.
Branick also said the county has stayed in touch with industry and Entergy throughout the storm, and they’re working to get back up to normal functioning.
He expects plants and refineries to get back up to full capacity “as the power grid becomes more reliable.”
About 13,000 of the 22,500 customers of Jasper Newton Electric Cooperative had regained power through other suppliers, JNEC announced Friday. Repairs to the Entergy transmission system, which knocked out power to parts of Jasper, Newton, Sabine, Orange and Angelina counties, are ongoing, JNEC said.
As residents in Jefferson County were regaining some basic services, it was a different situation in neighboring Orange County, where all agencies were still conducting rescue operations, according to the county.
Many county and city services remained disrupted or suspended as of Friday evening, and distribution sites for water, ice, and MREs were still not available.