The above civil emergency alert was sent to wireless devices in the Salem, Oregon as well as other areas in the region around Salem in the evening of May 29th. With no information about the specific emergency, people had no idea what to prepare for.
The Oregon Office of Emergency Management issued a statement about the incomplete alert that caused local 911 centers to be flooded with calls.
It turns out the alert was prompted by an algae bloom in Detroit Lake which supplies the Salem area with drinking water. The toxins from the algae can cause illness in children and elderly specifically, and anyone with immune deficiencies. The tap water in the Salem area remains unsafe for drinking now.
It is reported that officials knew about the toxins in the public water supply for up to 4 days before the alert was issued.
Some 30 minutes after the original alert was sent, an additional message was sent with the specifics about the water being unsafe to drink. This prompted concerned people to flock to grocery stores buying up all the bottled water they had and leaving the shelves bare.
Above two photos: Emergency water being dispensed to Keizer area residents. This station is being manned 24/7 until the water supply is deemed safe again. Photos by Darrell Fuller.
Salem area residents are still being advised to not drink the tap water, but officials say it is safe to bathe and clean with. This incident is a good reminder for all of us to make sure we have an emergency supply of food and water on hand.
For those interested, more information is available here from the Oregonian.
By Klamath Alerts