HURRICANE, W.Va. -- Tina McCallister first noticed it a couple of weeks ago -- people from Charleston, Poca, Culloden and other surrounding areas were stopping into Hattie's, her home style restaurant on Main Street in Hurricane, more frequently.
"We had a few days where it was actually busier, and it was people coming from different areas because of the water," McCallister said. "Business people have been coming down to eat. You couldn't even get into the Laundromat down the street -- it was packed. I talked to a someone who'd come down from Elkview to stay in the motel, take a shower and wash his clothes."
The Jan. 9 chemical leak that contaminated the Elk River in Kanawha County and left 300,000 West Virginia American Water customers in nine counties without water dealt a big blow to area businesses, as well. Twelve Charleston-area businesses reported more than $1 million in lost revenue to the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau earlier this week.
The "do not use" order issued by WVAW forced many area businesses to close, but people flocked to nearby areas with usable water, including nearby Hurricane and St. Albans. Both are within 30 minutes of Charleston, and both have municipal water sources not impacted by the spill.
"It's not to say Hurricane made any extra money -- some businesses probably did see an increase in Hurricane and Teays Valley, in restaurants especially, but it was unfortunate that it happened that way," said Hurricane Mayor Scott Edwards. "I don't want anyone to look at it as a good thing for Hurricane because they gained revenue from it, because no one wanted it to happen. It's doesn't matter that it didn't directly impact the city of Hurricane -- the whole area, even property values, could be impacted."
According to Edwards, the city's municipal water source is its reservoir, located on Teays Valley Road. The city also has five backup reservoirs, and draws water from nearby creeks that Edwards said do not directly connect to the Elk River. He said the city has two other backup sources for water, as well -- the Putnam County Public Service District and West Virginia American Water.
"We are able to pull from them, but we weren't at the time, thank goodness," Edwards said. "I've had a lot of people ask me this -- 'will you use them again?' I can tell you, it will be a long time. It will be a very long time. There will have to be many, many tests done."
The city was able to use its water supply to its advantage during the relief effort, and according to Edwards, while it gave away tens of thousands of gallons of water, no one is worried about the potential cost for the city.