When Toledoans were ordered to close their taps, they opened their hearts.
For 48 hours starting Aug. 2, the City of Toledo urged citizens not to drink its water due to high levels of the toxin microsystin.
Some 500,000 people in the greater metro area were affected by the algal bloom on Lake Erie, sending tens of thousands flocking to grocery stores to buy bottled water by the cases, and thousands more to visit dozens of makeshift distribution centers to pick up free water supplied by churches, community groups and even the National Guard.
Beyond Toledo proper, parts of Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, Monroe County and Lucas County were affected by the water advisory.
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While there were sporadic reports of price gouging (one store was allegedly selling a case of water for $20 when it would normally be priced under $4), there were even more reports of the kindness of strangers, as the community banded together to get through the crisis.
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The photos on this page capture some instances of that human generosity as high schools, baseball fields and sundry parking lots became temporary water depots. For the home-bound, other agencies, including the Red Cross, distributed potable water to their door.
Humans weren’t the only ones forced to becomes Bedouins for a weekend. Pet owners were warned against giving their animals tap water, and the Toledo Zoo faced its own mini-drought given that many of its animals rely on water to cool off or, in some cases, exist. Fortunately, there were good Samaritans who lent a hand and, in the case of the Jerusalem Township Fire department, a hose.
As the city, its businesses and its citizens slowly rebound, all are keeping a wary eye on the possibility of another water crisis in the future. Only one thing seems certain: should such an event occur, there are thousands in Northwest Ohio ready to open their hearts and go with the flow.