Freezing on Lake Erie caused valves to close, blocking water intake for communities connected to Avon Lake's water system: Medina, Avon, Avon Lake, Sheffield, Sheffield Lake, North Ridgeville, and parts of rural Lorain County.
Here is a list of advisories issued related to the water shortage; see the blog below for more detailed updates. We will update this as information becomes available.
Lorain County: State of Emergency declared
Avon: Do not use water until further notice.
Avon Lake: Use water only for essential tasks related to hygiene and food consumption.
Medina:Boil alert; residents asked to be conservative with water use but no specific restrictions applied.
Vermilion: Boil alert.
UPDATE 9:16 p.m.: The city of Medina has issued a boil alert.
UPDATE 9:08 p.m.: The city of Medina has not issued notices to its residents about stopping use of water, but told NewsChannel5 that their situation is "close to critical" and has advised residents to be conservative with water use.
UPDATE 7:11 p.m.: The city of Vermilion has issued a boil alert due to several water main breaks in the city.
All water used for cooking, drinking, or cleaning things that touch food should be brought to a rolling boil for at least a minute before using. The city warns that running the water through a coffee maker will not sanitize it.
Restaurants and food service personnel must take proper precautions, as well, and take ice machines offline.
UPDATE 6:48 p.m.: The Cleveland Clinic's facilities in Avon and Avon Lake will restrict their services over the next two days:
Richard E. Jacobs Health Center (33100 Cleveland Clinic Boulevard in Avon)
Emergency Department will remain open
Surgeries/Procedures will be rescheduled or moved to another Cleveland Clinic location
Patient appointments will be canceled up until 10 am
Avon Lake Family Town Centre (450 Avon Belden Road in Avon)
Patient appointments will be canceled up until 10 a.m.
Avon Pointe Family Health Center (36901 American Way in Avon)
Closed Thursday, Jan. 9 and Friday, Jan. 10
Patients will be rescheduled in nearby Cleveland Clinic locations
UPDATE 6:40 p.m.: Avon Lake Municipal Facilities posted on its Facebook page that the city is asking people to use water only for essential tasks: "We are at a critical point battling the ice in Lake Erie—we can still turn this around, and to do this, we need your help—PLEASE ELIMINATE ALL NON-ESSENTIAL WATER USE."
The post continues: "Other cities have already had to enact more stringent policies, but we have not yet. To help avoid further restrictions, please stick to hand washing, cooking and necessary toilet flushing for now—and stay tuned for additional CodeRED and Facebook updates."
UPDATE 6:38 p.m.: Lorain County has declared a state of emergency due to the water shortage.
The state of emergency allows the county to access additional state resources and activate mutual aid procedures with other counties and communities around Ohio, the county wrote in a press release.
UPDATE: At around 5:30 p.m., Avon posted on the city website that Avon Lake was at a "critical point" in the water use and Avon's residents should discontinue any water use until further notice.
Avon's mayor's office told NewsChannel5 that the city could run out of water by tonight.
Medina, Avon, Avon Lake, Sheffield, Sheffield Lake, North Ridgeville, and parts of rural Lorain County have connected water systems, but each city has its own supply. Avon Lake administers the system.
Fire hydrants have run out of water and fire departments from other cities are bringing tanks of water in.
It could take hours or days for the intake valves in Lake Erie to unfreeze.
The polar vortex has moved out of town, but it left behind a major water problem for thousands of Northeast Ohio residents.
Last night, water intakes in Lake Erie were frozen over, causing a partial blockage for Avon Lake Municipal Utilities.
"It has reduced the capacity that we can pull from the lake at this time, and therefore, reducing the amount of water that we can then send out to our customers," said Todd Danielson, chief utilities executive.
Danielson said people in Medina, Avon, Avon Lake, Sheffield, Sheffield Lake, North Ridgeville, and parts of rural Lorain County are being asked to conserve water.
Water should only be used for important uses such as drinking, cooking, personal washing, and flushing of toilets.
Danielson said it would help if residents delayed doing laundry and running dishwashers.
Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell has been monitoring a computer program which displays the water levels at four city towers.
All of them are dropping to low levels. For example, a water tower on Koons Avenue had less then 10 feet of water as of early Wednesday afternoon. It's capacity is 77 feet.
To address the problem, city crews devised a system to tap into the county's water supply, which gets some of its water from Cleveland.
"What we're doing is tying hydrant to hydrant with a special tube that doesn't require a boil alert then through the city," Hanwell said.
Medina resident Mary Schwarz, concerned about the possibility of a water shortage, filled up her bathtub with water in case she needs it for flushing the toilet or cooking.
"Am I conserving? Yes, because I'm not doing laundry or dishes. But am I preparing? Yes," Schwarz said.
Hanwell said major companies in town have been asked to cut down on operations to conserve water.
Heather Phillips, a spokesperson for Medina Hospital, said the hospital has a safe level of water. However, employees were asked to take measures to curb water usage, including drinking bottled water.
Danielson said crews are working hard to "free the ice" from the intakes and the warming weather should help.
However, Hanwell said the city isn't exactly sure when the water will start rising.
"They can't give us an estimate. We've tried and tried to get an estimate and they can't project it for us," Hanwell said.