The city of Philippi hired divers to clear debris from its water plant's intake to combat the water shortage that closed Barbour County schools and the Barbour County Courthouse Tuesday, officials said.
"Because of all the rain, debris in the river - leaves and things of that nature - clogged the intake and water wasn't coming in to the water plant," City Manager Karen Weaver said late Tuesday afternoon.
"This has happened before, but it's been a rare thing," she said."We were working on it all Monday night trying to prevent a loss of water."
Weaver said the town's water tanks were filled, but the supply ran out because of the clogged intake.
"Downtown Philippi was where it was felt the most, and other areas had low water pressure," she said. "But some of our areas did not run out of water, so it varied.
"We had to hire divers from out of town to go into the river early this morning, at about 1 a.m. , to unclog the intake," Weaver said. "We're back pumping water now and all of our customers should have water shortly. We do have a boil-water advisory in place. The water's safe, but the advisory is precautionary until we have it tested."
Weaver said the intake problem will be solved when Philippi's new water plant, which is in the planning stages, goes online in 2013.
All of Barbour County's schools were closed Tuesday because of the water shortage.
"The water situation had the most serious effect on Philippi Middle School and Philippi Elementary, but we also make meals at those schools for Volga-Century Elementary and Mt. Vernon Elementary," Dr. Joseph Super, Barbour County superintendent of schools, said Tuesday.
"We were also ... unsure how long the water would last at Kasson Elementary/Middle School and Philip Barbour High School," he said. "When six of your schools are going to be affected and you look at the bus transfers the students would have to make if we shut down only some of the schools, I thought it was in the best interests of our families to close all the schools today."
Super said Barbour's schools should be open and running as usual today, depending on the weather.
Contact Brad Johnson by email at email@example.com.