In the five weeks since a short, dramatic afternoon rainstorm hit Creston, Ross Beddoes has come to refer to the event as “The Great Flood of June 22nd”.
Beddoes, the Town of Creston’s director of municipal services, says one report from a resident with a backyard weather station in town indicates that 1.5 inches of rain fell in a 30-minute period.
“That’s certainly the biggest downpour since I’ve been here”, the resident of more than four decades said.
Beddoes categorizes the resulting floods to homes and businesses into several specifics, most having one thing in common.
“We just can’t plan for extremes,” he said. “We’d need to have six-foot drain pipes for that—it just isn’t feasible.”
The downpour was so dramatic that on Northwest Boulevard the runoff from Highway 3 cascaded over the retaining wall at Valleyview Road, forming what looked like a waterfall.
“And there are storm drains right there,” Beddoes said. “But those drains and some in other areas simply couldn’t handle the flow.”
Some downtown businesses were affected, in part because of the installation of “ambulatory letdowns” to allow sidewalk egress and ingress for mobility scooters. Those “letdowns” create low spots that allow water that is rushing along the curb and gutter system to get up and over sidewalks and into buildings.
“I’ve been scratching my head over what can be done, “ he said. “But the fact is that water like we’ve never seen before had an easy path over sidewalks.” Correcting that problem with higher curbs would make it much more difficult for people with ambulatory challenges to get around the community.
Another issue that is coming to the forefront after the June 22nd event is that many houses and businesses have sump pumps intended to be proactive measures.
“But we are discovering that many of those systems tie into the sanitary sewer system and not the storm drain system, which means sewer water can eventually backup into a basement, which is not healthy for anyone.” Backflow preventers can prevent that problem.
The recommended solution is to allow sump pumps to push the water up and out of the basement and onto lawns. While some residents have dug holes and filled them with rocks to take the overflow, Beddoes says that they really don’t hold a lot of water and it most cases it would be better to put the water onto the yard surface, where it will eventually seep away.
There are many small things that residents can do to help mitigate flood problems, some as simple as keeping eavestroughs clean and ensuring downspouts deliver water away from house foundations.
When one residential lot on 16th Avenue North proved to be a collecting point for surface runoff in the neighbourhood, the Town crew quickly delivered a pump and hose to move the water into the gutter and nearby storm drain.
“Those people were grateful for the response, and were able to monitor the pumping while our crews were out looking for other problems,” Beddoes said.
While there are many anecdotal reports of flood issues, Beddoes said only about a dozen of those affected have contacted the Town. Two of those, he said, indicated a plan to file a claim against Town of Creston insurance.
In the aftermath of the flood, Town crews have been checking manholes, looking for cross connections between storm and sewer pipes, and checking that ditches intended to take runoff water from roads are adequate.
And Town crews are on standby in the event of another heavy downpour. The public works employees will pull off manhole covers to get a first hand look at which connections are taking the water load, and which are being overwhelmed.
“We are always looking for the smoking gun,” he said, adding that reporting problems is helpful so that Town staff can identify problem areas. “You don’t know what you don’t know, as someone once said. The investigations continue and are on-going.”