As the eyewall of Hurricane Irma moved near Venice, Florida, on Sunday night, the city’s utilities department shut off its water supply due to damage to a water main. Residents will not have access to toilet water or drinking water until further notice.
When the storm dies down, according to utilities director Javier Vargas, employees will find the water main break and repair it. After they do that, residents will be instructed to boil their water for 48 hours before drinking it.
“The City of Venice Utilities Department has been forced to shut the water plant down due to Hurricane Irma,” Vargas wrote in an email. “It appears there is a significant water main break within the system. Employees are waiting for the storm to abate so they can go out, find the water main break, repair it, and restore water service as soon as possible. Until then, water service is completely discontinued. This means City of Venice customers will have no drinking water or water to flush toilets. The city will notify customers when service is restored. When that occurs, customers will have to boil water for 48 hours for drinking and cooking purposes, and until the boil water notice has been rescinded.”
Angela Homoky lives in Venice and said she doesn't remember ever experiencing a water main break before, but was "prepared with over 150 gallons of fresh water stockpiled."
"I have never never experienced rain and wind like this," she said. "Earlier I saw a very large tree in my backyard that was completely uprooted and on the ground and had completely ripped all the top soil and grass with it! I also had a very, very large 20-foot Bird of Paradise tree snapped at the base and on the ground."
Homoky said she plans to fly to Key West with a friend as soon as the storm dies down to bring supplies and help rebuild.
Jarmo Sillanpää, another Venice resident, said the "rain is horizontal." He found out about the water shutdown through the local "code red" system, which sends emergency notifications through phone, email, and social media.
Prior to the shut-down, the city's municipal government posted a Facebook status saying that the utilities department was "having difficulties at the water plant due to the storm."
"You may experience low pressure," the post read. "Please conserve water, using it for essential purposes only. We appreciate your patience and understanding."
The city of Venice's emergency operations team held a conference call with Sarasota county’s emergency operations team shortly after the water shutdown on Sunday night.
The Sarasota County Government tweeted that the city was under a water boil order until further notice.