RWD No. 13, partners come together in time of need

The Cherokee Nation, Cookson Volunteer Fire Department and other organizations stepped up recently to help residents of Rural Water District No. 13 when the water was off. Bottled water, food boxes, and prepared meals were available for pick up and delivery last week.

Community partnerships came together quickly to help residents during the recent winter storms.

Cherokee County Rural Water District No. 13 serves 914 households, and 144 of those were recently without water and are still under a boil advisory.

"We turned them off on Wednesday and all came back on yesterday," said Jacque Cialone, RWD 13 office manager, on Monday afternoon. "The boil order is going until we get test results back. It should be within a couple of days. It is required by the Department of Environmental Quality that they have to have the test results."

This boil order is only in effect for areas that experienced an outage, including the Highway 82 South area, Blue Top Road area, and Dry Creek area. Residents are advised, as a precaution, to bring water to a full, rolling boil for at least one minute before drinking, consumption, food preparation, baby formula preparation, dish washing, tooth brushing, ice making, wound care, and bathing infants who may ingest bath water.

As was throughout much of Oklahoma last week, RWD No. 13 suffered outages due to the water temperature. Cialone said the water couldn't be pumped through the microfiltration system fast enough to fill the water tower. She likened it to having to suck a frozen drink through a straw.

"The tower is now full," said Cialone.

Another issue for some RWD No. 13 customers occurred when their district attempted to reconnect to RWD No. 16 valve system. This could have temporarily provided service to customers in the Highway 82 South area. Cialone said the districts were previously connected until the districts split over a decade ago.

"This was an emergency plan with District 16. We've had a great partnership with them. Unfortunately, it didn't work this time. We couldn't pump enough water because there wasn't enough pressure," said Cialone. "Everything is up and running now. We are able to provide service to all customers."

Those who were without water in their homes were able to find assistance through area partnerships.

"The first phone call I made was to the Cookson Volunteer Fire Department," said Cialone. "They coordinated with the Cherokee Nation, and had bottled water available every day. From the second day through Saturday, they offered boxes of food and prepared food."

Some water and food items were also available at the Dry Creek area, and elderly who could not get to the station could call to have items delivered.

"We would like to thank Cherokee Nation for taking amazing care of the citizens of rural Cherokee County," stated a post on the Cookson VFD Facebook page.

As of Monday, the Cherokee Nation had provided 27 pallets of water, nine pallets of milk, and 33 pallets of food to 19 communities facing water shortages and other challenges in the wake of recent winter weather throughout the Cherokee Nation.

"Our Cherokee Nation departments have maintained direct communication with Cherokee communities throughout the reservation during the recent winter storms," said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. "We are always proud of the local partnerships we build as a tribe, and those partnerships were vital during this winter storm event. Cherokee Nation worked with area partners including rural fire departments, community centers and local governments to help residents who lost water, electricity or other basic necessities during the storm. I really want to commend everyone who braved the elements to make sure their communities were cared for to the best of their abilities. It takes everyone doing their part to get through these challenges."

Cialone said District 13 runs on a staff of three people, and that her crew did an amazing job getting the water flowing again.

"I'm proud to work with them," she said.

Those who had water shut off are asked to still conserve water as the system is eased back up to full speed, and to check for leaks on their property.

"If you find leaks, please turn your water off and have the leak fixed before turning it back on," said Cialone.

Other rural volunteer fire departments assisted community members during water outages, as well. Norwood VFD stored and distributed bottled water when pumps went out at RWD No. 1 in early February.

To read the boil order advisory for RWD No. 13, visit cherokee13.com.

Those who experienced damages due to recent winter storms are asked to report those on damage.ok.gov.

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