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Towns rush to secure water after line breaks

A pipe break in Harnett County has knocked out most water service to residents in Holly Springs and affected the supply to Fuquay-Varina.

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HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. — A water line serving two towns near Raleigh broke Sunday, and officials there urged residents to only use water for essential needs.

Utility operators said a water line from a Harnett County plant ruptured overnight, cutting off the major supply source for Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina.

Holly Springs town spokesman Mark Andrews said the town was able to quickly restore a previous connection to Raleigh's water system, where it can get about 1.2 million gallons per day. But that's only about one-third of what the area normally uses, and officials are urging residents through reverse 911 calls, billboards and media to use water for only cooking and drinking.

"Under best case scenario, we're still severely restricted," Andrews said.

Andrews said the town is also working to re-establish an old connection with nearby Apex.

Fuquay-Varina, meanwhile, declared a state of emergency and temporarily banned water irrigation to save supplies. That town also has backup sources from Raleigh and Johnston County.

"It looks like that we're going to be OK," said Fuquay-Varina Mayor John Byrne. "But you don't really know in a situation like this."

Rodney Tart, Harnett County's director of public utilities, said an overnight lightning storm created a power surge that shut an emergency valve at a base plant, creating a bulge of pressure and rupturing the 36-inch pipe. The break flooded the room, shorting out all electrical controls, Tart said.

"While the situation is bad, it's good that we got the rain along with the storm because it probably cut demand in half," Tart said.

Tart said workers will be on scene around the clock to restore operations.

A bypass line is expected to be possibly up and running by Monday afternoon and providing enough water to meet regular demand in Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina sometime after that.

"It'll pump what they need," Tart said. "It'll be enough to meet their peak demand."

He expected a permanent fix to be finished later in the week.