'I'm desperate for clean water' — and other worries from West Virginia

People living near the state capital are warned to avoid drinking, bathing, cooking and washing

Yahoo News

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Water for 300,000 residents was unavailable on Friday.

Water.

“This one simple thing that I take for granted every day is gone,” Katie Hubbard says. “I'm desperate for clean water here.”

The Charleston, W.V., resident — one of about 300,000 near the state capital without access to clean water since a chemical spill on Thursday in the Elk River — shared her apprehension in a first-person account on Yahoo News.

Schools, restaurants, businesses and public buildings across nine counties in southwestern West Virginia closed down as authorities instructed residents to avoid water for anything — drinking, bathing, cooking, washing and more.

There’s inconvenience certainly — “This means the bathrooms are not operational,” resident Bonny Starkey notes — and some hysteria and handwringing over empty grocery store shelves.

But others have observed residents pulling together in crisis: “So far, as to the attitude and demeanor of most West Virginians, I have only witnessed the best behavior and a calm acceptance,” Robert W. Walker says.

Yahoo News gathered anecdotes and thoughts from Charleston residents on Friday. Below are some tweets and lightly edited excerpts from what they shared.

'Desperate for clean water' in Charleston

The saying "you don't know what you have until it's gone" plays true. In this case, it's water in West Virginia.

About 300,000 of us can't use water for bathing, making food or even something as simple as washing our hands. My family has not used any water since the warning arrived. The water here has a distinct smell of licorice.

My uncle lives in Logan County, due south of Charleston, and he bought as much bottled water for us as possible. Spending $150 for water seems absurd. But I'd rather be prepared than helpless. No one knows when this nightmare will end.

The worst thing about everything is how people are reacting to the spill's news. Residents are becoming violent to get water, and I heard one instance of someone taking water from the cart of a woman with a young baby. Considering others and realizing that they need clean water, too, seems out of the question. It's survival of the fittest.

There seems to be a general state of hysteria. I haven't ventured out to grocery stores yet and plan to avoid them if possible. Microwavable and ready-made food is what my family plans on living on since so much of what we cook relies on being able to turn on our faucet.

Luckily for us, family friends have offered us access to their well water should we run out of our supply. Without that, we considered driving to surrounding states to get water. Going on a road trip for a few days is looking like a possibility to avoid all the drama. All I desire at this moment is a five-minute shower that doesn't threaten to poison or harm me.

— Katie Hubbard

Lack of information leaves Charleston in a lurch

Not being able to drink tap water, wash dishes or take a shower for a day is an inconvenience, for sure.

The initial chaos was somewhat humorous, because it appeared people were overreacting. But who knows how long this will go on? That's what everyone here is talking about. And, as of right now, we don't know.

We have lived with the knowledge that chemicals are part of our lives forever here. It's a way of life, but when it becomes real, it becomes scary.

— Matthew Sutton

Hysteria seems dangerous, worrisome right now

The first report came as a message on my boyfriend's phone at about 6 p.m.

Fortunately I had about a gallon of drinking water on hand. I stayed in for the evening and watched the news and kept updated through Facebook. I heard stories about local businesses closing and about people going "crazy," hitting the grocery stores and pushing and shoving and grabbing up all the water they could find.

By this morning, there is barely any bottled water in our area stores. Now I'm hearing residents are lining up at the gas pumps. I'm not sure why. This was a bit concerning to me; mass hysteria is never a good thing.

This morning I went to work. I wasn't able to shower or wash my hair. I'm glad I washed laundry the day before. We have bottled water at work, but the water had been shut off in the building. This means the bathrooms are not operational.

— Bonny Starkey

Water, water everywhere but…

Local mom-and-pop businesses have been shut down as well as major chains — Burger King, McDonald's, Cracker Barrel, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut — due to the order of local health departments and authorities. Without water, no Mickey Ds.

I awoke this morning to the news that a CVS had water to sell. But by the time I arrived, 10 minutes later, it was gone, sold out. Store shelves have been wiped clean of water since news of the spill first broke. I went to a Dollar General store right after CVS to ask about water shipments there. I learned the Kroger grocery store in the same plaza had a shipment coming in 15 minutes. I went to that location — which was standing room only — waiting for the shipment to come in. It took an hour to get away with two cases of bottled water. All told, I spent two and a half hours to retrieve any drinkable, usable water.

— Robert W. Walker

‘We will manage the best we can’

If you drive through the parking lot of any establishment that sells water, you can see folks displaying their true colors — or maybe their "humanity" — as they shovel case after case of water into the trunks of their cars with no regard for the folks who come behind them to get water for their families. As a staple of our weekly grocery visit, we make it a point to keep a supply of bottled water in our home, mostly for our visitors who prefer bottled water. We were able to purchase two cases of water late Thursday night; one went to our home and the other went to our parents' home.

We have some amazing friends and family, strong state leaders and a never-tiring National Guard that have stepped up to help make this horrible situation as manageable as possible. Hopefully within a few days we will all have clean water and resume our daily lives safely. Until then we will manage the best we can.

— Adam Hatter

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