Water crisis tales posted, tweeted on social media

This picture -- taken in China -- resurfaced on many Twitter accounts from Northwest Ohioans.
This picture -- taken in China -- resurfaced on many Twitter accounts from Northwest Ohioans.

Online, the people organized.

In tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram photos, social media users on Saturday shared which stores had bottled water and which had empty shelves that looked a lot like what northwest Ohio saw a few short months ago when “Snoledo” pummeled our area.

Facing unsafe drinking water, people were a little panicked, very frustrated, and maybe a little slap happy.

One person posted a picture of Woody, a loveable cowboy character from Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story, with superimposed text: “Somebody poisoned the water hole,” a line from Toy Story 2.

With direction from friends of the Internet, people took off in search of water.

Just after 6 a.m., the Frenchtown Charter Township Kroger, on Dixie Highway in Monroe County, which opened at 6, was nearly out of bottled water. Nearly all the customers there were from Toledo. By then, only a few hours after the city of Toledo issued a Facebook alert, pictures of long lines, overstuffed shopping carts, empty grocery store aisles, and “out of water” signs were taking over local social media feeds.

People on social media reported seeing Toledoans as far away as Lima and Delaware, Ohio — and north of Ann Arbor — in search of water that would be safe to drink. One woman said she drove to Angola, Ind., in search of bottled water but the Walmart they stopped at was sold out. Her phone died; it was not known if she ever found bottled water.

Lima police, always active on Twitter, urged residents to let their neighbors to the north have dibs on bottled water.

“Toxic water in Toledo right now. Please let Toledo residents get bottled water here. Our water is safe. They need it,” @LimaPolice tweeted just before 10:40 a.m.

The water situation was so serious that Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins dusted off his Twitter account and sent a few tweets after being inactive for about seven months. In fact, the mayor set a personal one-day tweet record on Saturday with 11 messages, many of them brief:

“We will provide info as quickly as possible, as long as it is confirmed as factual,” he — or whoever runs his social media accounts — posted at 11:16 a.m.

Sam Melden, a West Toledo resident, told the Twittersphere that one of his neighbors — who drove 20 miles into Michigan to get water — brought the Melden family a case of bottled water.

“We were sitting on the porch and he said he’d driven into Michigan ... I offered to pay for it and he said, ‘No, don’t worry about it,’ ” said Mr. Melden in a phone interview. “It’s great. That’s what Toledo neighborhoods are all about.”

On Twitter, #emptyglasscity, first tweeted by Toledoan Katie Warchol, on Twitter as @KMWarchol, became a nationally trending topic within hours. At one point, the hashtag — which curates all such-dubbed tweets into a database — was being used in more than 400 tweets per hour. For a local happening — even one that makes international news — that’s kind of a big deal.

The folks behind TEDxToledo asked folks on social media to share stories of kindness even in the face of a water crisis by using #fullglasscity.

Online, too, Toledo food lovers were spreading support for local restaurants hoping to rally support for a support-local dine-out day to help the many establishments that were forced to close Saturday because of the do-not-drink-or-boil advisory. No concrete plans were ever set.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at tdungjen@theblade.com, or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.