Residents of Bloomingdale: Don’t start celebrating just yet. You may have emerged from Hurricane Sandy unscathed, but that doesn’t mean your flooding problems are solved.
The storm’s minimal impact on Bloomingdale was, according to DC Water’s Alan Heymann, “a question of mathematics,” not a reflection of a fix to the neighborhood’s chronic flooding issue.
“We got a lot of rain during this storm,” Heymann says, noting that he measured about four inches at his Columbia Heights home. “But those inches of rain fell over an extended period of time. It was a sustained rather than a downpour kind of rain.”
In other words, this is exactly the kind of storm the pipes are equipped to handle. Compare yesterday’s long, steady rain to the storm of Sept. 2, when DC Water’s Bryant Street NW office—-a block from Bloomingdale—-recorded more than three inches of rainfall in less than two hours. That storm caused substantial flooding in the neighborhood.
“The system in Bloomingdale is designed to handle a lot of rain,” Heymann says. “It just can’t come down too fast.”
DC Water did, in conjunction with government agencies, ensure that conditions around the neighborhood wouldn’t exacerbate the impact of the storm—-clearing leaves from the streets and gutters, for example. But in terms of the sewer system itself, Heymann says nothing has changed between Sept. 2 and now that would account for the lack of flooding this time around.
That means that a major project to reduce flooding, perhaps at the McMillan Sand Filtration Site, could still be in the works.
“What happened over the course of this storm isn’t going to deter us from medium-term engineering solutions, whether that’s McMillan or anything else,” Heymann says.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery