Portales residents cope without water for a day

By William Thompson

Portales residents who hopped in the shower the morning of Feb. 18 got a chilly surprise. A water main break had left the city without running water. Water service wasn’t fully restored until about midnight.

The following residents tell how they dealt with the incovenience.

• Zach Cathey, a conductor for BNSF Railroad, arrived at home at about 5 a.m. and saw a river flowing down his street.

“It looked like the whole town was flooded,” Cathey said. “I went to take a shower like I usually do after work, but I had no water pressure. I couldn’t drink a glass of water like I usually do.”

Otherwise it was life as usual for Cathey although he said he didn’t smell as good that day as he usually does.

• Kerry Wallis, a full-time dad, said he and his one-year-old daughter had a trickle of water running out of the faucets at their home the day the water main broke.

“We had enough water to sip when we were thirsty,” Wallis said, “and I had some friends bring over some jugs of water so we could flush the toilet.”

Wallis said he was glad he had plenty of sanitary wipes to keep his daughter clean. He said he has faith in the City of Portales but thinks another water main break is bound to happen.

“The city needs to find out where all the old pipes are and where the cut-off valves are,” he said.

• Yolanda Jimenez, an employee of Liberty Finance in downtown Portales, said the water was out at her family’s house three miles outside of Portales.

“We couldn’t take showers and we were worrying that the water might not come back on until Monday. There were rumors going around that the water would be out for three days,” Jimenez said. “My father went and got water from a friend’s well. We went to my son’s basketball game and they had port-a-potties set up because the restrooms were out of order.”

• Brittany Bailey, a student at Eastern New Mexico University, said she went to Clovis to take a shower at her grandmother’s. Later that evening, she attended a party in Portales.

“Everybody was using the bathroom outside. It was really gross,” she said. “The students in the dorms were using the restrooms even though the toilets didn’t flush. That was really gross, too.”

• Mark Torres, a student at ENMU, said he drove to Clovis to use a restroom.
“I left for Clovis as soon as I felt my stomach start to rumble,” he said. “I stayed the night at a friend’s house in Clovis.”

• Brenda Dean, an employee of Consigning Women in downtown Portales, said customers came inside the store all day long asking to use the restroom.

“We had to tell them no. We (the employees) couldn’t even use the restroom,” Dean said. “I’ve been here in Portales for 18 years and I haven’t seen that (the citywide water outage) happen before.”

Dean said she had a trickle of water from her faucets at home so she felt “blessed” to be able to flush the toilet at home.

“We were praying that the water would come back on that day. We heard rumors saying that it would be off for thee days.”

• Rick Ledbetter, a chili and alfalfa farmer six miles from Portales, was sitting pretty with plenty of well water at his farm, but he too was affected by the city’s water outage.

“We had some friends come to the house to get some water from us,” he said. “They brought five-gallon buckets.”

l Paul Hunton, owner of AV Products, said he found a novel way to get water for flushing.

“My dad scooped water out of his hot tub to use for flushing the toilet, so I went over to his house and got some of that water,” Hunton said. “My wife took our two children out to her sister’s house to take showers.”

Hunton said the water outage made him realize how much people take running water for granted.

“It made me think of the hurricane victims who had to go days without being able to flush toilets,” he said.