No flush, no shower: Mississippi capital city in water pinch


AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

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JACKSON, Miss. — Portable toilets are parked outside the Mississippi Capitol, city residents are stocking up on bottled water and restaurants are evaluating whether they can stay open with little or no water from the tap.

About 40,000 homes and businesses in Jackson, Mississippi, will be without water or will experience low pressure this weekend because the city is replacing a major water pipe that’s damaged.

Like other cities across the nation, Jackson faces the expensive challenge of aging infrastructure. The concrete water main in Jackson dates to the early 1990s and is broken in several places. It is one of many problematic pipes in a city where boil-water notices are common.

Officials say they expect water service to be affected from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon for about 60 percent of people living or working in the city of 171,000.

The city has distributed bottled water and told people to prepare for the outage by filling bathtubs so they can flush toilets and wash dishes. Fire departments from the suburbs are on standby to respond in Jackson, if needed.

Public libraries are closing, and some downtown hotels are turning away guests for the weekend. Portable toilets are also set up outside other government buildings, including the Governor’s Mansion.

Diane Alford, owner of the Two Sisters Kitchen, said her restaurant near the Capitol is always closed on Saturday and she is planning to open for lunch this Sunday, as usual. The after-church crowd there fills up on fried chicken, creamed corn and bread pudding with pecans.

Alford said the state Health Department told her she could serve a limited menu of fried chicken and biscuits if the restaurant has low water pressure. But she said it’s an all-or-nothing proposition: If the water pressure is acceptable, the restaurant will offer its full home-style buffet that customers expect, or if the pressure is low, she will close for the day.

“We’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” Alford said. “Fingers crossed and prayers said.”

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