Dylan Giroir, a 16-year-old volunteer from Bayou L’Ourse, greeted the motorists and then offered advice none wanted to hear:
“Come back tomorrow.” A bottled-water giveaway had ended minutes earlier after a steady stream of cars exhausted the resources there.
For the fourth-straight day, temperatures near or below freezing in south Louisiana contributed to low water pressure and busted pipes that left water in shorter than normal supply in Lafourche, Terrebonne and Assumption parishes.
Leaders of the affected parishes expressed optimism that water pressure would be restored today. Residents in Assumption and Lafourche are under a precautionary boil advisory. Thibodaux residents who get their water from the city’s waterline are not under an advisory.
Terrebonne residents living in or near Chauvin, Montegut, Pointe-aux-Chenes, Boudreaux Canal and Cocodrie are also advised to boil their water.
Lafourche and Assumption schools were closed today due to low water pressure. All Terrebonne schools were open.
Each parish’s water shortage likely resulted from a combination of freezing temperatures and the water system being overloaded by residents leaving their faucets dripping, officials said. The burden on the water system will decrease once temperatures start to rise and residents begin to turn their faucets off, they added.
In Assumption Parish, the near total lack of water has made it difficult for people to shower, cook or wash clothes.
“It’s nowhere near normal,” said John Boudreaux, Assumption’s Office of Emergency Preparedness Director, regarding the amount of water available. “You might fill up a gallon or jug in a matter of minutes.”
Residents waited in lines at three separate locations across the parish Monday afternoon to pick up cases containing 24 bottles of water. The packages of water ran out within minutes in Bayou L’Ourse, Paincourtville and Pierre Part.
The parish’s Police Jury bought some of the water for distribution purposes, but received the vast majority from the state’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Residents were limited to one case of water due to overwhelming demand.
“It was a good thing they did it,” Jarrod LeBlanc, a 38-year-old Bayou L’Ourse resident, said. “But how far does a case of water go for four people? A case of water is not going to last more than eight hours.”
Others, who arrived too late to pick up water, questioned why the event had not been publicized more. Local radio informed people about the event this afternoon, as did pre-recorded messages sent out by the parish.
“I’m in the same boat” tomorrow as today, said Ruth Champagne, a 54-year-old from Bayou L’Ourse, who did not get any water. “I won’t know until it’s too late.”
Officials said they planned the giveaway as quickly as possible, given the circumstances. It remains to be seen whether water will be given away in Assumption again, Boudreaux said, explaining that water might be restored Tuesday.
Assumption Sheriff Mike Waguespack said he had discussed contingency plans with other local sheriff’s offices to move his jail’s 90 inmates but was hopeful that situation could be avoided.