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Road, water issues linger from winter storms

by From Staff Reports | February 22, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.
The Sentinel-Record/Grace Brown /Caption: Garland County sheriff’s Sgt. Bill House walks past a Ford Focus in the ditch in the 200 block of Parkshores Road on Sunday. House said the driver reportedly lost control on an icy road and flipped the vehicle. No injuries were reported. - Photo by Grace Brown of The Sentinel-Record

The city of Hot Springs said Sunday it remains in "critical status" in terms of available water, with some crews working "day and night" in water production as others shut off water service where frozen pipes have burst, but stopped short of declaring it a crisis.

"Although water levels remain at a critical level, due to the efforts of Utilities staff, the city is not in a crisis situation," the city said in a news release, and again urged conservation on the part of water users.

"If conservation efforts are successful, the city will avoid having to issue a boil order and we will get water back to normal flows sooner," the release said.

The Fountain Lake School District said it will not meet for face-to-face instruction today after being notified by the North Garland County Water District that the campus did not have water, according to the school district's Facebook page.

The NGCWD was working on a water main break on Saturday morning and notified customers on Facebook that it could be Sunday before service was restored.

On Sunday afternoon, the water district posted an "alert" on Facebook that indicated water was being restored in sections.

Fountain Lake students were advised to check SeeSaw and Google Classroom for assignments and continue to work virtually. "We will continue to monitor road conditions and keep everyone informed regarding the water shortage," the school district said.

The water outage, combined with the condition of side roads for bus routes, also prompted the Jessieville School District to close its campus to on-site instruction today.

All Jessieville students should follow their normal schedule and participate in classes virtually, "as this will be considered a school day. Please review the Catastrophic Learning Option/Plan for student expectations," Superintendent Melissa Speers said in a message posted on Facebook.

"When it is safe to be on the roads, you may access a community hotspot by pulling into the parking lot of the Jessieville School District Foshee Building, the parking lot of the Cedar Mountain Boys and Girls Club, or the parking lot of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church on Hwy 298 to access the Jessieville School Wi-Fi.

"If your student is having problems getting work completed, please make sure to communicate with your student's teacher(s) and complete the work assigned as soon as possible," Speers' message said.

"The water problems that the North Garland County Water Department is having may take time to resolve. I will continue to monitor the status of water availability on campus as well as the condition of bus routes each day and make decisions daily as to on-site or virtual school. Announcements about this will be made late afternoon/early evening each day, and notifications will be made at that time," she said.

While water was not an issue in the Highway 70 west area, and most of the major roadways were passable on Sunday, the condition of side roads prompted the Lake Hamilton School District to announce it would not hold on-site instruction today.

"The safety and security of our students and staff remain our top priority. Although the majority of main roads are clear, there are many side roads in the Lake Hamilton School District that remain unsafe for school buses," the district said on its Facebook page.

Lake Hamilton students and parents should log in and check their Seesaw or Canvas account for assignments and specific classroom instructions.

Today will also be a virtual learning day in the Mountain Pine School District, according to its Facebook page. Students will return to campus Tuesday through Friday. Teachers will Zoom with students today, and the administration building will open at 9 a.m., if patrons have questions, or they can email a member of the administration.

Cutter Morning Star also said on its Facebook page it would pivot to a virtual learning day today due to some back roads still being impassable.

Lakeside School District will hold on-site instruction today, according to its Facebook page.

"If road conditions are still hazardous for you to get to school, students may attend virtually and will NOT be counted absent. Buses will run, but will not travel any ice/snow-covered roads. Please plan accordingly for your bus rider," the post said.

"Employees, if your road conditions are still impacted by the snow/ice and are hazardous, please call to make arrangements with your principal. Safety is our top priority."

Today was a pre-scheduled staff professional development day for the Hot Springs School District. There will be no virtual work or on-site classes for students.

National Park College employees and students will continue working remotely today "due to water issues and road conditions. Communicate with your instructors or supervisors for specific instructions," the college said on Twitter.

The city's news release said some areas of the water system in higher elevations are experiencing little or no water pressure due to low levels in the storage tanks.

"Utilities staff are manipulating pumps and valves from midnight through 8 a.m. daily in an effort to gain tank volumes. This has been necessary to ensure enough water is available during the day," the release said.

According to the release, everyone who receives city water is being asked to continue to conserve water whenever possible, including the following:

• Stop dripping faucets as temperatures have risen above the threshold for pipes to freeze.

• Skip a bath/shower, each of which uses an average of 25 gallons of water.

• Minimize water usage in dishwashing and doing laundry by only washing what is absolutely necessary.

• Gather water at the thermal water fountains downtown, which can be used for drinking, brushing teeth and doing dishes.

"The roads downtown are clear, so if you can safely drive downtown from your home, this is a great, free option," the release said.

"There have been more than 3,000 reports of homes and businesses with water leaks, and the Utilities Department is receiving more than 200 calls per day requesting water be turned off due to pipe bursts. Crews are tracking down leaks and are shutting off water in order of highest usage priority," it said.

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