Monday, January 25, 2010

Why does it flood everytime it storms?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2010 at 2:33 PM

Good question — glad you asked.

Last night's storm was a doosie, eh? We feel for the people who are being affected by the flooding and hope their lives return to normal as soon as possible.

Now, let's take a minute to look at why it floods. Those of you who have been here for a while or, in some cases, for your ever: Think back. Charlotte's been doused by big storms before — some even bigger than last night. When people decided to settle here, don't you think they took flood patterns into consideration? Of course they did. If Charlotte were little more than a giant floodplain, it wouldn't be the growing city it is today.

The bad news is, in some areas, flooding is occurring because Charlotte is a growing city. Rampant development, with not enough thought given to a little something known as storm water runoff, is a major cause of today's urban flooding. And, if you'll take a minute to think about it; those dots are easy to connect.

Here's an example: A developer builds a mall and a giant parking lot to go with it. The city builds big boulevards so shoppers can get there hassle free. Before the mall and parking lot and roads, water soaked into the ground when it rained and vegetation — like flowers, bushes and trees — soaked up their fair share, too.

But, water can't soak into concrete, can it? Nope. Not unless developers spend a little extra money engineering buildings, parking lots and roads that will direct the flow of storm water into retaining ponds. When they just slap down a bunch of concrete, in as cheap a way as they can, what they're creating is a storm water nightmare, as many of you know.

Water runs off of concrete much faster than you'd think. An average-size parking lot and one inch of rain can produce 27,000 gallons of storm water runoff. Where does that water go? Into the streets. Into storm water drains. Into creeks already overwhelmed by other parking lots. And, eventually, it overflows the creeks' banks and creates havoc. (I'm not going to even get into the pollution nightmare that goes hand-in-hand with this problem.)

Because developers and city and county officials were so interested in saving a few bucks over the last few decades, Charlotte floods. Now, it will take millions and millions of dollars to fix the problem while, every time it rains, the Queen City's residents brace themselves wondering if they'll have to evacuate their homes or if they'll be able to get to work and school the next day.

The big question is this: Have developers and government officials learned their lesson? Will future development be conducted in a more future- and community-concerned way?

In related news, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is accepting public comments on this issue until Feb. 26, because. I have confirmed with them that anyone can comment.

All you have to do is e-mail your comments to OW–Docket@epa.gov. Be sure to put “Attention Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OW–2009–0817? in the subject line.

If you're paying attention, you'll know that Charlotte's flooding a lot these days. This video (below) is from August 2008. Check out more video from some of Charlotte's recent flooding here.

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