BRUNSWICK COUNTY — All Brunswick County barrier islands — with the exception of Sunset Beach — will continue to have water available during Hurricane Dorian.
Water pressure in the county’s island communities may be reduced as Brunswick County Utilities works to isolate its mainland water system from the islands as a precautionary measure.
Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order Tuesday, calling for a mandatory evacuation of all barrier island communities in North Carolina. Residents of these communities should have already evacuated as Hurricane Dorian moves closer to the North Carolina coastline, but it is possible some people may have ignored orders and remained in their residences.
The decision to isolate does not mean water service is being cut off to Caswell Beach, Oak Island, Holden Beach, or Ocean Isle Beach. Each of these beach communities has access to water storage tanks, according to Brunswick County Public Utilities Director John Nichols.
“The difference between isolating and cutting off — cutting off implies someone won’t have water,” Nichols said Thursday.
Though the mainland supply valves to these communities are being closed or partially closed, the water storage tanks contain enough water to supply those still located in the beaches with adequate water. Water inside storage tanks can help protect the structures from hurricane-force winds, Nichols said, and can be necessary for fire protection purposes.
Any decision to limit water supply coming from these supply tanks would arise from each community itself — not Brunswick County Public Utilities. “It’s up to them how they use those tanks,” Nichols said.
According to an Oak Island press release Thursday afternoon, the town will shut off the water at 6 p.m. “We cannot give a specific time when the water will be restored from the County, but it will be restored as soon as it is safe to do so,” the release states.
In a follow-up press release, Oak Island’s spokesperson clarified the town’s tank capacity is 1.1 million gallons, with a 600,000-gallon average daily consumption (this does not mean the tank is actually filled to 1.1 million gallons, or that water is being consumed at these rates with the majority of the island’s residents evacuated). “We all need to be conservative with water usage until the supply is restored,” the release states.
The lack of water flowing in from mainland lines will reduce water pressure, according to Nichols, which could make showering difficult in these areas.
Sunset Beach does not have its own water tower. This community would be the only area affected by isolated water lines, according to Nichols. However, residents in Sunset Beach should have already evacuated, per the governor’s order. “What we have done, we have not completely isolated the valves [in Sunset Beach],” Nichols said Thursday. “We have basically limited water pressure there.”
Lines are being isolated in order to protect the integrity of the system. Storm surge and erosion are projected to heighten through Thursday evening along the coastline. In the event of main breaks on beach communities, lost treated water could drain the system’s supply, according to Nichols.
Author’s note: Additional information will be updated as it becomes available
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