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Old March 5th, 2010, 04:53 PM   #101
hkskyline
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Storm-drain neglect creates nightmares
EPD: Many metro cities, counties are ignorant of own water controls.
21 February 2010
The Atlanta Journal - Constitution

Concern that some metro cities and counties weren't maintaining storm water infrastructure such as drains and detention ponds prompted the state to require stepped-up inspections beginning in 2008.

The state Environmental Protection Division found, however, that many governments didn't know what storm water controls they had. At least eight of 15 metro governments hadn't finished or were just finishing infrastructure inventories as of their 2009 reports to the state, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review found.

Most metro governments are supposed to inspect about a fifth of their infrastructure each year. But some examined 1 percent or less of certain drainage features, state records show. Maintenance and inspections can be expensive.

"The struggle is how do you pay for it with limited resources when you have citizens that want police, firemen and libraries," said Tom Gehl, a deputy director of governmental relations for the Georgia Municipal Association.

Meanwhile, climatologists have detected a recent trend across the Southeast toward heavier rainfalls --- just the sort that can overwhelm aging infrastructure such as drains and underground lines that, in some areas, no longer work.

In Smyrna, Tanay Crawford's townhouse in Afton Downs flooded three times in five weeks in 2008, submerging the hardwood on her first floor in 3 inches to 4 inches of water.

"The cleanup every time was a nightmare," she said.

It took her months to realize that a clogged drain in the street was sending more water than usual rushing toward her 1981 townhouse, which sat below street level. She said she pestered Smyrna officials until crews fixed the drain.

State records suggest storm drain lines --- which carry water from places such as streets to drainage ditches, ponds or other outlets --- are particularly neglected. Without regular maintenance, clogs and breaks are inevitable over time.

Many storm water pipes are 20 years to 30 years old and nearing the end of their useful life, said Michael Thomas, general manager of Clayton's water authority. "We're seeing cave-ins in the street and people's yards," he said, "and people don't have the funds to replace that."

Yet at least seven of the 15 cities and counties either didn't know how many storm lines they had or reported inspecting fewer than a fifth of them, state reports show. The cities of Kennesaw, Alpharetta and Roswell, as well as Clayton County, reported so few inspections they approached zero percent of the system.

Local officials said they are trying to comply with the state rules, which is sometimes a matter of better documenting work they are already doing. Clayton officials are keeping track of inspections more closely and doing more of them. In Kennesaw, Alpharetta and Fulton County, crews typically look in catch basins --- drains in the street to collect rainwater --- to find problems in lines between them, instead of inspecting the lines separately, officials said. Roswell plans to meet the state target for inspections this year.

Atlanta residents complain

In Atlanta's Buckhead, Virginia Highland and Midtown neighborhoods, residents complain the city's neglect of infrastructure worsens flooding.

Vivian Harding has owned her Buckhead house, now a rental, for three decades. Banks of a creek on her property line are eroding, widening and inching closer to her foundation in one place.

"I'm watching my house being taken by this creek," she said.

The volume of water grew after the city installed sidewalks in 2006, she said, and she worries a sewer pipe in the creek bed is in jeopardy. She wants the city to clear a nearby storm pipe outlet, reinforce the bed and reduce the runoff.

"The city just sits back and is doing nothing about it," she said, adding her property value has likely plummeted. "Who's going to buy this problem?"

Atlanta watershed management department spokeswoman Janet Ward said workers have examined the situation and do not believe the city is responsible for fixing it.

In any case, Atlanta has told state officials the city can only afford to do maintenance in emergencies. State officials warned, "If the city conducts the inspections as required, but does not follow up with maintenance of the structures found to be deficient, then the inspection program is almost useless."

"Right now, our storm water focus is on public safety," Ward said. "Our focus is on getting the streets clear so cars don't wreck."

Money and manpower

Gwinnett County spent nearly $16 million in 2008 and $22 million in 2009 on storm water management. Alpharetta spent more than $900,000 in the 2009 fiscal year and projected this year's budget will top $1.8 million. Storm water staffing ranges from two workers in small cities to 60 in Gwinnett.

The high cost of repairs has spurred more than 40 Georgia counties and cities to create storm water "utilities," which charge property owners fees based on square footage of impervious, or nonabsorbent, surface --- such as roofs, driveways and parking lots. The fees provide a consistent source of cash for repairs, instead of forcing local officials to find money in the general fund. Fees can run in the thousands of dollars for commercial developments.

The Council for Quality Growth, a developers' group, supports utilities, but they can be a tough sell with taxpayers. In Cobb County, talk of creating one drew such vociferous opposition that the County Commission never put the idea to a vote, Chairman Sam Olens said.

"It was called the rain tax," he said. "The public had zero appetite for the issue."

Cobb instead boosted spending on storm water using county funds. Yet, without a utility, the county will take longer to reduce its backlog of problems, he said.

Several officials said their cities are hesitant to propose new fees now because of the poor economic climate. Atlanta, however, is considering reviving a utility it disbanded years ago.

"Right now we're just reacting," said Ward, the Atlanta watershed management department spokeswoman. "There's no way to pay for it without a utility."

Storm water solutions

The ground manages to drain or absorb rainwater fairly well until the amount covered by impervious surface reaches 30 percent. At this point, each new acre of development draws a more extreme response from streams, increasing the chance of flash floods. Many U.S. cities have begun efforts to improve storm water control by managing the amount of impervious surface.

Here is a comparison of runoff in an urban setting with 75 percent to 100 percent impervious or hard surface area vs. runoff in a natural setting.

What now?

Though it was late coming, the metro region has been improving its storm water controls in recent years. Here are examples of what communities have done here and in other parts of the country.

Among the improvements in the region:

New laws that require local governments to study their flood plains to better identify properties at risk.

New laws that require developers to better control runoff downstream.

Growing use of storm water utilities to fund repairs and upgrades of drainage features.

Other areas of the country are introducing creative measures, including:

Laws requiring that more water be captured on site.

The use of trees and other plants to soak up rainwater on site.

Extensive use of porous pavement.

Using plants on rooftops to absorb rain.

In this series

Today: More pavement means higher streams. Explosive growth, poor planning and neglected infrastructure have helped turn even unremarkable rainstorms into property-wrecking events in metro Atlanta.

Monday: Homeowners often bear the cost of runoff management. Some metro counties, cities and homeowners associations resist repairing storm water infrastructure in subdivisions.

Tuesday: While local governments clean up their act and take a tougher stance on controlling runoff, the state and federal government are pushing back.

Next Sunday: Sitting at the juncture of five creeks, in the bull's-eye of a suburban building boom, Austell has suffered from the metro region's flood planning shortfalls for years.

Next Monday: What now? A closer look at solutions. Some local governments across the country have taken a more aggressive approach to handling storm water.

On ajc.com/metro

Go online for an in-depth map of metro Atlanta highlighting areas that have the most extensive amount of impervious surface and are most susceptible to flash flooding.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency

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How we got the story

For this story, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviewed more than 60 homeowners, local and state officials, engineers and policy experts, and reviewed state storm water permits and annual reports filed by 15 metro Atlanta cities and counties.

The newspaper performed its own analysis of the effect of development on metro Atlanta streams, using monitoring data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The analysis looked at the effect of impervious surface --- hard surfaces such as pavement or roofs that prevent rainwater from soaking into the soil --- on stream flashiness. Flashiness is the speed and height of peak stream flows during a rainstorm. The more "flashy" the stream, the more susceptible it is to flash flooding.

The AJC estimated impervious surface from Atlanta Regional Commission land use maps using a land use model that set an average impervious surface percent for different land uses. For example, single-family residential areas average 20 percent impervious surface, while commercial areas average 85 percent impervious surface.

To measure stream flashiness, the AJC used the Richards-Baker flashiness index, computed by dividing the sum of differences between daily median stream flow by the sum of daily averages for each year, 1999 through 2009. The analysis used daily stream flow data from 19 Geological Survey stream gauges in the metro area.

The analysis found that differences in impervious surface explain more than 70 percent of differences in stream flashiness among the 19 gauge sites. The analysis also found that, as impervious surface reached 30 percent or more, it had an increasingly dramatic impact on stream flashiness.
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Old March 5th, 2010, 05:56 PM   #102
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Being from Seattle I'm used to light rain, but heavy rain is a foreign concept.

In high school, about 35 of us flew to Florida to study marine biology for two weeks overlapping spring break. At one point we stayed in a scout camp. There was a storm one night. The biology teacher woke everyone up at 3:00 am so that we Seattle kids could experience a "real" storm.

20 years later I went to Hong Kong. That's the worst rain I've ever been in...I'd run across the street to another awning, and stand there with rivulets running off me. It was like taking a shower.

A couple days before that I took a ferry to Macau. A readerboard in the waiting area warned of a "Level 3" typhoon coming but nobody seemed to care, and I'd already paid, so I went anyway. No luggage because it was a day trip. I spent the wettest day of my life walking around the older half of Macau vaguely noticing that the shops were mostly closed with their roll doors down, and occasional branches and laundry littered the street. Then, being an idiot apparently, started wandering toward the ferry terminal for the ride back. It turned out the typhoon had reached "Level 8" and the ferries were cancelled. They kept pushing the time back hour by hour, a TV crew interviewed some of the people near me, etc. I ended up with a hotel room in each city that night. Not before arousing the suspicion of the staff at a highly-fortified house overlooking the harbor, who asked who I was and offered a "ride".
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Old March 6th, 2010, 04:06 AM   #103
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Yes ... the tropical downpours can get quite insane! The Pacific NW is wet, but it doesn't rain the same way.
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Old March 6th, 2010, 01:27 PM   #104
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Yes HK thunderstorms a quite impressive, but more in impressive are the supercell storms in the Plains and central europe! The flashfloods are horrible and when hail is involved, things can get dangerous!
The worst thunderstorm i expirienced in HK was a squall line resulting from Typhoon Sanvu back in 2005!
The worst Storm i ever expirienced generally was a HP-Supercell near Dallas, TX with extreme big hailstones, a tornado, downburst, extreme gusts and after the hailstorm intensive flashfloods!
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Old March 6th, 2010, 07:59 PM   #105
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We don't usually get hail and tornadoes even with the worst tropical storms, but we can easily get 200mm of rain in a few hours during one of these downpours. The city doesn't usually flood except a few select urban areas but generally, the drainage pipes are well-designed to handle the rain.
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Old March 8th, 2010, 03:25 AM   #106
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Melbourne has just had what is suggested to be the "Storm of the Century". Here's some pictures, and videos. At the time, I was stuck up Eureka Tower.

This is the storm rolling in over the suburbs.

image hosted on flickr



after the storm ripped through the city, the clouds hovered amidst the buildings

image hosted on flickr



Here is the hail covered train tracks heading into Flinders Street Station

image hosted on flickr



After being told to get out of the tower due to them having problems with electricity, we found that a lot of the streets of Melbourne were flooded


image hosted on flickr

image hosted on flickr

image hosted on flickr

image hosted on flickr





Last edited by Dimethyltryptamine; March 8th, 2010 at 03:34 AM.
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Old March 8th, 2010, 03:39 AM   #107
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It was hectic!
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Old March 8th, 2010, 06:10 AM   #108
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^
What a nice storm. They should be glad about the rainfall.
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Old March 8th, 2010, 03:54 PM   #109
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Did the hail clog the sewers, causing the flooding? How much precipitation fell?
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Old March 9th, 2010, 12:16 AM   #110
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It's said that 36 millimeters of rain fell over the city. As for the clogging of drains; Melbourne has tree-lined streets which, with the assistance of heavy rain, hail and strong winds, blew the leaves off the trees and thus clogged the drains.
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Old March 9th, 2010, 06:52 PM   #111
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Originally Posted by Dimethyltryptamine View Post
It's said that 36 millimeters of rain fell over the city. As for the clogging of drains; Melbourne has tree-lined streets which, with the assistance of heavy rain, hail and strong winds, blew the leaves off the trees and thus clogged the drains.
36mm isn't actually a lot of rain at all .. but I guess the typical leaves clogging sewers is always the culprit.
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Old March 10th, 2010, 06:38 AM   #112
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It wasover 100mlls in 2 days.
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Old March 10th, 2010, 06:51 AM   #113
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Wow, that's surprising!
I have actually experienced 1000mm/day rainfall but the town was not in this much of flood.
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Old March 11th, 2010, 12:32 PM   #114
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What is that white crud on top of the water? Is it just unmelted hailstones?

From the pictures it almost looks like cracked concrete, at first I thought the cars sunk in somehow!
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Old March 11th, 2010, 02:30 PM   #115
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Lol, yeah it's hail that hadn't quite melted, mixed with leaves.
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Old March 11th, 2010, 04:33 PM   #116
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The middle sections of the USA tend to get unusually strong and severe storms because of its unique geography. There is no natural mountian chain or land features that stop the cold arctic air from coming down and smashing into the wam tropical air as it moves up.

Every once in awhile we get derecho's here. Insanely high amounts of rain, lightning and wind that slam through in a bow shape and cover up to hundreds of KM for extended periods of time. You normally have ample warning that they're coming, sometimes up to 12 hours.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derecho

I remember one growing up in Iowa back in 1998. My dad and I were helping my Uncle move and didn't even see all the reports that one of these was closing in. We were halfway home with the sirens went off, everything went black, and boy did we drive as fast as we could and ran like hell into the basement. Almost 200kph winds tore through a massive swath of the state and caused extreme chaos for a few days.

We had another one in Chicago about a year and a half ago:

Massive line of storms stretching over 100KM and covering the entire metro area

Air raid sirens (to warn of extreme weather) sounded over the entire city for only the second time since WWII

90,000 lightning strokes counted over the metro area in a little over 2 hours.

10,000 lightning strokes hit the central business district, one of the most concentrated levels of lightning ever detected on earth

800 lightning strokes per minute in the city, multiple fires

160KPH winds over the city, airports shut down and evacuated, a million without power

3 tornadoes, but amazingly only 25mm of rain because the storms blew through so fast


One of those rare moments when 10 million people are all cowered underground at the same time all drawn to the same event. It certainly gave everyone something to talk about the next day!

The lightning and thunder was something I'd never experienced in my life. The weather experts said the storm was completely in a level of its own as far as lightning. Just to think that 13 lightning strikes a SECOND were hitting the city. It was the loudest thing I've ever heard. Like a freight train going on for 30 minutes - trees crashing, very close lightning strikes hitting at all times. It was also very strange that it had an unheard of number of positively charged strikes - the very powerful and very dangerous kind. I normally love storms, but when I saw the warning map on TV at the restaurant we were in that had the entire metro shaded red with tornado warnings, I knew it was serious.

Last edited by Chicagoago; March 11th, 2010 at 04:46 PM.
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Old March 11th, 2010, 04:42 PM   #117
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One of the worst rainfall events every in my state of Iowa (USA Midwest) was in the summer of 1993.

During the summer months of June, July and August, almost 1,000 mm of rainfall hit a massive area that normally only sees a small fraction of that.

61,000 square KM of land was covered with water for up to 3 months. Over 150 main rivers in the central USA were in flood stage at the same time, 10,000 houses destroyed, lots of deaths, dozens of cities and towns completely underwater, and hundreds of levies destroyed.

In our state capital of Des Moines - over 250,000 people were without water for weeks on end, power was cut, roads were underwater for months, a disaster area was declared and massive amounts of rain cause intense flooding for almost everyone.

That was one CRAZY summer. We'd normally see rains of up to 25mm come through every few weeks or so. That summer had up to 150mm of rain falling in storms that came through like express trains almost every day or every other day.
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Old March 11th, 2010, 11:17 PM   #118
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicagoago View Post
The middle sections of the USA tend to get unusually strong and severe storms because of its unique geography. There is no natural mountian chain or land features that stop the cold arctic air from coming down and smashing into the wam tropical air as it moves up.

Every once in awhile we get derecho's here. Insanely high amounts of rain, lightning and wind that slam through in a bow shape and cover up to hundreds of KM for extended periods of time. You normally have ample warning that they're coming, sometimes up to 12 hours.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derecho

I remember one growing up in Iowa back in 1998. My dad and I were helping my Uncle move and didn't even see all the reports that one of these was closing in. We were halfway home with the sirens went off, everything went black, and boy did we drive as fast as we could and ran like hell into the basement. Almost 200kph winds tore through a massive swath of the state and caused extreme chaos for a few days.

We had another one in Chicago about a year and a half ago:

Massive line of storms stretching over 100KM and covering the entire metro area

Air raid sirens (to warn of extreme weather) sounded over the entire city for only the second time since WWII

90,000 lightning strokes counted over the metro area in a little over 2 hours.

10,000 lightning strokes hit the central business district, one of the most concentrated levels of lightning ever detected on earth

800 lightning strokes per minute in the city, multiple fires

160KPH winds over the city, airports shut down and evacuated, a million without power

3 tornadoes, but amazingly only 25mm of rain because the storms blew through so fast


One of those rare moments when 10 million people are all cowered underground at the same time all drawn to the same event. It certainly gave everyone something to talk about the next day!

The lightning and thunder was something I'd never experienced in my life. The weather experts said the storm was completely in a level of its own as far as lightning. Just to think that 13 lightning strikes a SECOND were hitting the city. It was the loudest thing I've ever heard. Like a freight train going on for 30 minutes - trees crashing, very close lightning strikes hitting at all times. It was also very strange that it had an unheard of number of positively charged strikes - the very powerful and very dangerous kind. I normally love storms, but when I saw the warning map on TV at the restaurant we were in that had the entire metro shaded red with tornado warnings, I knew it was serious.
I know that derecho events (squall lines!) from Dallas, TX where i have a house. During spring time supercells are very common in Texas and OK as a result of dry cool air in the upper layers from Canada and moist hot air on the ground from the gulf, they causing tornados and hailstorms. Is Chicago also a risky area in terms of supercells? What were the causes of the tornados in ur area? Supercells, derecho events or common thunderstorms?
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Old March 12th, 2010, 02:13 AM   #119
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Uncut View Post
I know that derecho events (squall lines!) from Dallas, TX where i have a house. During spring time supercells are very common in Texas and OK as a result of dry cool air in the upper layers from Canada and moist hot air on the ground from the gulf, they causing tornados and hailstorms. Is Chicago also a risky area in terms of supercells? What were the causes of the tornados in ur area? Supercells, derecho events or common thunderstorms?

Chicago is in an area that sees lots of violent storms like Dallas. Dallas probably sees a few more though. Up here the most powerful severe storms and tornadoes come from supercells.

Huge lines of storms, although not a lot of derechos, is probably the most common types of storms up here though. You normally know they're coming up to 12 hours before they hit. Usually if it's a REALLY strong line of storms, people will usually pay attention to the TV and computer and actually follow the storms minute by minute for an hour or so before they hit. They'll cut into all the TV and warn people, sound sirens, interrupt radio, etc.

One thing we don't have as much of as other areas on the west coast, east coast, and Europe is the just minor lines of storms and gentle cells that come through. More often than not, if it's going to storm, they're going to be fairly violent in the Midwest.
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Old March 12th, 2010, 11:26 AM   #120
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LOL @ Dimethyltryptamine being outside a gay sauna... I suppose it's a nice place to keep out of the rain

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