Everywhere but not a Drop to Drink…or Touch
The 2016 Corpus Christi Water Crisis
Tom Johnstone, NWS - WFO Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, TX
On December 14th, 2016 Corpus Christi officials learned that a combination of harmful chemicals, Indulin AA-86 and Hydrochloric Acid, had likely contaminated the city’s water supply. As a result of the danger to the public, early in the morning of December 15th the city instituted a complete ban on the use of water by the approximate 320,000 users of the water system.
As word of the water ban spread, bottled water quickly sold out across the city. By midday on December 15th there was little to no usable water available within 40 miles of Corpus Christi. Many residents, including the city’s most vulnerable populations, were left with no water at all and a humanitarian crisis was unfolding. In response, the city activated their EOC and requested support from multiple state and federal agencies as well as the private sector. Bottled water began arriving by the truckload late on Thursday December 15th and continued through the weekend. The city utilized several outdoor distribution centers, staffed by hundreds of volunteers, to get water to its residents.
Given the forecast of a significant weather impacts over the weekend, the Corpus Office of Emergency Management requested deployment of an NWS Meteorologist to the EOC for the duration of the activation. This presentation will outline the NWS’ role in supporting the city throughout the crisis. Some of the important lessons learned during the deployment including webEOC usage, staffing and training challenges, and NWS EOC briefing format will also be presented. An additional focus will be the need for enhanced decision support relating to water quality and availability along the Texas Gulf Coast.