Stormwater issues not limited to one part of city

The storm that hit Dubois County on Sept. 7 and 8 brought 11.26 inches of rain, flooding many streets in Huntingburg including at the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue. (Photo courtesy Michelle Hemmer)



HUNTINGBURG — Joe Pund remembers well the floodwaters in his garage almost two weeks ago. It was similar to the flooding he endured in April 2017.

“I had 33 inches of water in my garage this time,” said the Korean War veteran, who bought his South Main Street home in 1958. “That April, it was 42 inches. And I lost my car and my truck in that one.”

He has 10 inches of creek stone around his home, to help protect his basement from flooding. But he would prefer that the flooding problem be solved.

“The only way they will be able to do that is to put in a bigger culvert right across (U.S.) 231,” he said. “But the state would have to pay for that.”

Pund was one of about 70 people at Tuesday night’s meeting to discuss stormwater problems in the city. About half of the people there, Pund included, were there to share stormwater problems on the city’s south side. But there were also plenty people there talking about issues on the north side and in the heart of the city.

The city has hired Commonwealth Engineers to study the condition of the city’s stormwater system to determine how extensive repair work needs to be, and if a separate stormwater utility is needed for that work. The study will consider the financial factors, to see what the cost would be to residents if a utility is established.

“We are not going to have a lot of answers to the problems tonight,” said Eric Parsley of Commonwealth Engineers “This is to identify where the problems are located.”

Instead of having each person take a turn at the microphone to speak, they chose to break the group up into areas of the city: north, middle and south. Maps were laid on different tables and people were directed to share their concerns with the engineer at the map of their area. The engineers wrote down the concerns in addition to collecting comment cards. They will compile the concerns into a digital city map to show all the problem areas.

Currently, the city’s street department incorporates stormwater maintenance into its street work. But officials have noticed more and more stormwater needs, such as repairing and replacing old infrastructure. The extensive rains in April 2017 overwhelmed the system in some areas of the city. Those areas were hit with heavy rainfall a second time, on Sept. 7 and 8 of this year.

Experts say that a 100-year storm, which last April’s storm was classified as, will drop at least 9.08 inches of rain in a 48-hour rain event. The storm that happened on Sept. 7 and 8 yielded 11.26 inches.

“It seems like we are having these (rainfalls) more and more often,” Parsley said. “I’m sure a lot of you had astronomical amount of flooding.”

He explained that these storms are given the year designation to indicate the probability of another one happening again. For a 10-year storm, there is a 10 percent chance of another storm happing again. For a 100-year storm, that possibility reduces to 1 percent.

The challenges the city faces with its stormwater system are to address the current problems, prevent future issues, and determine how much it can afford to address the issues, Parsley said. But the first step is to figure out all the current problems.

“We can’t do a piecemeal approach anymore,” Mayor Denny Spinner told the crowd. “We know these events are happening more often. And you have the information we need, because this is affecting you directly.”

Pund believes a larger culvert would solve the flooding issue near his home, which is across the street from Casey’s gas station.

“That culvert (there now) is about three feet lower than the highway. When it fills up, it’s gotta back that water up on Second Avenue,” he said. “That brings a lot of water out through there.”

He’s hopeful that a solution will be found.

“It has to be addressed somehow,” Pund said. “Of course, it doesn’t happen very often. But it happened last year and this year. That’s more often than I remember it ever flooding.”

For those who could not attend, comment cards are also available at City Hall. The cards also include an email address to which people can send comments directly to the engineers. And there will be more public meetings in the future, Parsley said.

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