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A McComb Public Works crew repairs a water main break on West Street on Thursday morning, one of three issues that led to a loss of water pressure across the city during this week’s frigid weather. 

The hope of restored water service improved Thursday for McComb residents and businesses as city crews, hampered by this week’s icy weather, were finally able to make progress on fixing infrastructure damaged by the winter storm.

Mayor Quordiniah Lockley said now that the city has mostly thawed out, public works crews were plugging away at the broken water mains and other issues.

On Thursday morning, public works employee Larry Bertrand was in a hole deeper than he is tall, installing a large compression clamp around a burst water main on West Street near Louisiana Avenue as his co-workers used a pump to remove muddy brown water that had pooled around pipes beneath the street.  

Lockley said that water main was fixed Thursday morning, along with the fire hydrant on Old Liberty Street that was destroyed after a vehicle slid into it Monday night.

“We are busy trying to get things done. They have prioritized the repairs, and progress is being made,” the mayor said. “We should hopefully see some improvement in our water pressure today if they stay on their schedule.”

A crew attempted to fix a burst pipe leading to the hydrant on Wednesday afternoon, but a water pump froze, as did another pump the city borrowed to continue trying to make the repair.

“That was the number-one issue at hand because it spewed out more water than any other leaks,” Lockley said. “We have to have the pumps in order to keep the water out of the hole, and if the pumps aren’t working, we can’t make the repair.”

Lockley said weather like this had not been seen in years, and it’s likely more leaks will be discovered as temperatures rise above freezing. Residents can call (601) 684-3213 to report new leaks that are not on private property.

“With the help of the fire and police departments, they are busy trying to identify other leaks,” Lockley said in a press release Thursday. “It is our hope that the recent repairs will improve our water pressure.

“The boil-water notice will remain in effect until we can get samples to the Mississippi Department of Health.  They will run several tests before they can clear our water system and release us from the notice.”

Selectman Shawn Williams, whose Ward 4 is where the broken hydrant is located, gave an update on Facebook around noon Thursday.

“I am just giving an update that the water issues are repaired and Public Works will be testing the water pressure here shortly,” he said. “Thank you all for your patience and hopefully the water issue will be working properly here shortly.”

Lockley said the city has received calls from residents offering to help make the repairs, which he said he appreciated, but cannot accept due to liability concerns.

“Citizens are wanting to volunteer, but there is a liability to that, so that is why we haven’t reached back out to those citizens, but we appreciate all those who have called and wanted to help,” he said. “I would like to ask citizens with pumps if they would be willing to let us use them as backups in case our pump freezes again.”

With the city finally thawing out, that does not mean that residents are out woods yet. James Trigleth of JT Plumbing in Summit said if homeowners have little water pressure or no water at all, pipes will be much more likely to burst, expecially if there is another hard freeze in the coming days. Weather forecasts call for wind chill in the teens and below-freezing overnight lows in the 20s and 30s on Friday and Saturday, with temperatures rising well above freezing by Sunday.

“If we get back into freezing weather, if they don’t have water on, they could have freezing pipes,” he said, noting pipes still hold water even if there is no water pressure. “It could still be holding water with no water coming through, and when it is just sitting there in the freezing temps, that is when it starts freezing through.” 

Trigleth said he and his crews are working from Gillsburg to Lincoln County, and he doesn’t expect to get through his waiting list until the end of Saturday, noting that the list will only grow as more pipes thaw out and breaks are discovered.

McComb resident Bonnie Stewart, who lives on Ninth Street, said her water went from a trickle at the beginning of the week to no flow at all on Wednesday afternoon.

“I was clever enough to take what was trickling and collect it in buckets and other areas in my house, so aside from the inconvenience with bathing everything was fine. I was still able to do laundry and cook,” she said. “This water outage was scary to me because my house was almost burned down, and during the repairs I had all of my pipes replaced, so I was afraid my new pipes had burst and it would cause another expense.”

Stewart said she had a lot of sympathy for the city employees fixing the pipes out in the cold and rain Wednesday, but believed officials could have better communicated about the issue, noting that attempts to reach them fell on deaf ears since city hall was closed.

“Bless them for their effort because I wouldn’t have wanted to be out there,” she said. “I just feel the city should have communicated better since there was were so many affected. I am just thankful to have my trickle back.”

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