(The following is an OP/ED piece by Chief Meteorologist Shane Smith and does not reflect the views and opinions of the management and ownership of WYMT-TV and Gray Television.)
Happy Wednesday to you, on what's starting out as a very cold day across southern and eastern Kentucky. The region woke up to single digit temperatures this morning, and that will be the case again the next several days.
I want to take a break from talking about the weather today though, and talk to you about something that's been on my mind for about two weeks. We have seen some massive problems with the water systems in the area because of the cold earlier in the month. It's nobody's fault, it's just something that happens when temperatures get that cold for that long, and we haven't had that kind of cold around here in almost 20 years. I know it's been a big inconvenience for a lot of folks, especially you all that went 10 days + without running water. Several of us at WYMT weren't spared from the water shortage, I know I personally didn't have water for almost 5 full days because of the problems we had here in Perry County. It''s annoying, it's frustrating, and to be blunt it's a pain in the rear. It's something that with all the modern conveniences we now have, we're just not use to dealing with.
And it's not just natural disasters that can cause water problems. Our neighbors up in West Virginia had to deal with a massive water shortage after the chemical spill in the Elk River. At one point during the outage up there almost 300,000 people didn't have access to water. Grocery stores sold out of water in the blink of the eye, and there were even scuffles and fights over water at some locations reported. A lot of misinformation and a state panic swarmed on social media as people were sharing and retweeting rumors and just false information that was being circulated. It's important that in events like these you have a trusted source of information to go to, and WYMT is a great source for information. We work nonstop in events like this to get the most accurate and reliable information out for you. We always try to get updates to you about where shelters are being set up, water is being distributed, and other critical information during these types of events. The WYMT facebook page and WYMT.com can be a hub of great information in these events
Now back to the disasters we've experience. These two events just go to show that our water system is a bit more fragile than we'd like to believe. The same thing can be said about our power grid. Some of you may know I worked in southern West Virginia before coming back to eastern Kentucky. While I was there I worked through two events that left parts of that region without power for up to two weeks in some locations. A massive snowstorm that hit late December in 2009 and the derecho of June 2012. Both caused serious problems in southern West Virginia and caught a lot of people unprepared for the hardships of living without power or running water for several days.
Now I know a lot of us have seen show's like "Doomsday Preppers" and just rolled our eyes and laughed at the people stockpiling years of supplies. I'm not going to get into the likelihood of some kind of end of the world scenario, but speaking from personal experience I think it's a good idea to have some kind of preparations, a kit, and a plan in place to deal with these hardships when they do arise.
We've had our share of disasters across eastern Kentucky. Tornadoes, flash flooding, ice storms, you name it we've probably had to deal with it. We live in area that has active weather on a regular basis and it can cause problems with our power supply, and by effect of that our running water. I would like to encourage you, that if you don't have a home disaster kit together to consider making one. The federal government has a great website, ready.gov, for making a disaster kit. Here's a link to it: http://www.ready.gov/basic-disaster-supplies-kit.
While the government recommends 3 days worth of supplies, personal experience has taught me to keep a week's worth of supplies. Storing 1 gallon water per day, per person can take up a bit of room, but I've found using old milk jugs and pop bottles to store water is a great way to reuse something you would otherwise throw out. Just remember if you're storing water in old pop bottles, that it takes about 4 liters to equal 1 gallon, so you'll need two bottles per person per day if you go that route.
You don't know how thankful I was to have had several gallons of clean water stockpiled in my closet when this whole mess started earlier this month. While I didn't have as much as I would've needed had the outage gone on another day or two, I was in good shape compared to some of my neighbors who didn't have anything ready. The main things I noticed though was that while I had enough for basic needs: food, drinks and basic hygiene, I didn't have enough to do dishes, laundry, or to flush the toilet more than once a day. I'm now looking into ways of storing extra water for those needs in case another event like this happens. Also not being able to shower definitely was not fun, and I was very thankful that the Pavilion in Hazard still had water and I was able to go down there and shower.
So I would personally like to just share this advice with you. Start storing a little bit of extra food and water every time you make a trip to the store until you've built up a weeks worth supply for your family. Doing it all at once is almost impossible, especially for larger families, but breaking it down over time makes it a whole lot easier. Reuse old pop bottles and milk jugs to store water and make some space to put them away. A family of 4 would need right around 30 gallons for one week, and that's just for basic needs. For food, try to catch non perishable food while it's on sale at the local grocery stores. If you can buy a few extra cans to tuck away, you won't have to worry if there is a big run on the grocery store during the next disaster.
I know it takes time, money, and effort to get a kit together. I also know the first two of those three can be hard to come by, but trust me it does make you more able to deal with bad situations when they come up and they do come. As the old saying goes, "An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure." And with the cold weather forecasted for the next several days, into next week... I think we may not have seen the last of water problems in the region this winter. Until next time, take care!