CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On foot, in cars or while towing luggage carriers or pushing wheelbarrows, thousands of Kanawha Valley residents spent at least part of Friday lined up to receive emergency rations of safe water at distribution points across the region.
With no solution in sight for restoring potable water to the West Virginia American Water system in Kanawha and eight surrounding counties, and little bottled water remaining on the shelves of area supermarkets, few options were available for obtaining safe water.
Zachary Smith of Charleston's Knollwood neighborhood was one of more than 100 people lined up outside the Charleston Fire Department station on Morris Street at about 1 p.m., waiting for an announced 2 p.m. delivery of bottled water for emergency distribution.
"We tried to get water here in town last night, but we ended up driving out to Big Chimney and Elkview, and they were all sold out, too," Smith said. "We did finally manage to get a couple of bottles from an Exxon station at Elkview."
Terri Triplett of Institute was among more than 1,000 people who got safe drinking water from a drive-through distribution site set up in the parking lot of the South Charleston Recreation Center.
"I only had to wait about 20 minutes to get mine -- it wasn't bad at all," said Triplett, who filled her 10-gallon water cooler and a 1-gallon thermos with water from a West Virginia National Guard "buffalo" tank.
When Brenda Keeling of Dunbar showed up at the center after supplies of bottled water were exhausted, with no containers to get water from the buffalo tank, Triplett gave here several bottles of her water.
Rita Burns and Joy Christian arrived at the South Charleston site on foot, toting a collapsible wheelbarrow and a luggage carrier. Residents of the nearby Kenna Homes neighborhood, the women opted to walk to the site, rather than drive, because of severe traffic congestion in the area.
"We're getting some bottles to share with our neighbors," Burns said. "Some of them aren't able to get out and get water themselves. We may be making another run later today."
In all, 1,200 cases of bottled water and several thousand gallons of buffalo-distributed water were dispensed at the South Charleston Recreation Center site before it was shut down about noon and relocated at the parking lot of the Gestamp stamping plant on MacCorkle Avenue.
South Charleston Police Chief B.L. Rinehart said that, while the recreation center site operated efficiently once vehicles arrived there, the large number of people attempting to turn off Jefferson Road to enter the facility was causing traffic problems.
"Traffic's backed up on the interstate and in every direction," Rinehart said, mainly because of the recreation center's close proximity to the MacCorkle Avenue exit of Interstate 64 and to often-congested Jefferson Road.
It wasn't just humans who lacked water in the Kanawha Valley on Friday.
At the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association's animal shelter, firefighters were installing a pump on loan from the Malden Volunteer Fire Department to bring water from nearby Coonskin Branch into the shelter for use in cleaning floors and cages.
"We used towels to pick up waste last night and today, but you don't want to go more than 24 hours without giving the cages a scrubbing," shelter director Chelsea Staley said.
When it was announced Thursday that tap water was unsafe to use for drinking or cleaning, "we initially had nothing to give our animals to drink," said Staley. "But the community came out in droves to bring us bottled water and supplies."
Keeping the 200 dogs and cats housed in the shelter safe and well "is a big responsibility," Staley said.