After Irma: Preventing Flooding in the City of Melbourne
Hurricane Irma was a historic event on many levels. Though the City of Melbourne was spared a direct hit, the sheer size and power of Irma still left many areas in our community damaged.
Irma had some of the heaviest rains ever experienced in our area. Preliminary data from Brevard County indicates that 15 inches fell in 12 hours. In comparison Tropical Storm Fay, which caused widespread flooding in Brevard, dropped 27 inches of rain in 72 hours. Irma dumped more than half the rain that Fay dropped in only 1/6 of the time.
This rain was dumped on ground that was already almost saturated from heavy rains that fell over Labor Day weekend.
As soon as Irma was in the forecast, Melbourne’s Public Works staff implemented their pre-storm plan to carefully inspect and clear all city-maintained ponds and ditches. This included checking and clearing 80 ditches (including removing a boat that had washed into the pipes of one of our major canals), 17 retention ponds, and 13 baffle boxes. This was in addition to the regular inspections Public Works staff conducts to be sure all drainage systems are flowing correctly. They also checked and inspected known trouble areas, conducted street sweeping and responded to multiple calls and concerns. City staff also made and distributed to residents 18,500 sandbags in three days.
As soon as the dangerous winds subsided after Irma passed by, Public Works staff went out and checked every area affected. They cleared roads of debris and pushed trees out of the roadways to make them safe for emergency vehicles and first responders. They also checked for drainage and flooding issues by first inspecting the major drainage ditches to be sure they were flowing properly and then checking the smaller feeder ditches.
Some parts of the city’s drainage system were overwhelmed by the huge amount of rain that rapidly fell from Irma. Also, the rain filled canals and raised the level of the Indian River Lagoon so high that there was nowhere for the water to go. However, some spots that had seen flooding before did not flood during Irma.
Public Works staff are now working with city Engineering staff to collect and review all data (observations, calls from residents, etc.) to determine improvements can be made to the system to prevent future floods. Where infrastructure projects can help, these will be identified. They will also work with their colleagues in Brevard County who maintain some of the drainage and stormwater infrastructure in the City of Melbourne.
How Homeowners Can Help Prevent Flooding
Many homes now have debris piles on their front yards from the hurricane. Trucks will be collecting debris 12 hours a day/seven days a week, but it will still take many weeks for all debris to be removed.
During this time it is extremely important that homeowners stack debris away from curbs and out of the roadway. During a heavy rain event on Tuesday, Sept. 19, there was some reported street flooding in neighborhoods where debris had been piled in the roadway. The piles of debris blocked the water from its normal route down the curbs to the storm drains, so the water built up in the center of the road.
Homeowners should also never stack debris on top of or next to a storm drain and should not leave empty garbage cans in the road. Lids can pop off the rolling garbage carts and block drains.
For More Information or to Report a Problem
Please call the City of Melbourne’s Streets and Stormwater Division to report any problems including drainage issues or potholes: (321) 608-5300.
For more flood prevention tips, see: http://www.melbourneflorida.org/departments/engineering/stormwater-utility/flood-prevention.