Where does the water go?

Reported by Colin Hackman - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - More than 6.5 inches of rain fell in less than three hours Monday night.

The total was enough to move July 6th, 2009 into the top 15 one-day rain events of all time.

According to officials, it takes as little as 3 inches of rain to cause flooding along the New Center Drive corridor.

However, other areas of town that saw the same amount of rain saw no signs of flooding.

"The problem is actually magnified when it happens in an urbanized area like the City of Wilmington," said David Mays, the manager of Wilmington storm water services. "With all of the pavement and parking lots there is no way for it to soak into the ground, so it just ends up sitting there so you have these parking lots and roads that turn into rivers and lakes."

The street flooding is not just caused by the rain - it is an inherent problem with low elevation. Water is collected in retention ponds and then moves to creeks and sewers. The New Centre corridor is only a few feet higher than Bradley Creek, where the run off flows to.

"The problem is when you have that much rain the ponds overflow, and when they overflow they overwhelm the system we have," said Mays.

Mays said he has seen a stretch of New Center Drive flood several times, and each time it does his office is looking at answers.

"We estimated [improving the storm water system] a few years ago and it was in the ball park of $7 million," said Mays.

Since their land is so low, preliminary designs would only diminish the impact of flooding, not remove the threat entirely.

"The objective would be to safely get that water from the top to the bottom in a publicly owned and maintained system that was sized for a standard storm event," said Mays.

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