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Flooding of June 2006 remembered like yesterday
Flooding of June 2006 remembered like yesterday
By SUE REID
Solon resident Scott Brody remembers June 22, 2006, like it was yesterday: More than 5.5 inches of rain fell in an hour and a half.
The Huntington Drive resident, who lives in one of about 1,000 homes in the city that were flooded that day, recalled that he heard a siren go off about 4 p.m.
"It made me get up and look outside my front window which faces Huntington Drive, and there were cars floating down the road," he said. "My street side mailbox was under water, and there was a guy standing out of the window of his SUV that was in the water."
Mr. Brody said he had been living in his home for 11 years at that time and never had a drop of water in the basement. That day there were 4.5 feet of water in his basement.
"People talk about losing a box of pictures, but with 4 1/2 feet, you lose everything." That included a $25,000 woodworking shop in his basement that took him 10 years to build.
And that wasn't all.
"Because water was coming in through my front door, it was also coming in through the main door underneath from the garage to my house," he said. Mr. Brody said he was afraid to open the garage door. That was because it housed his vintage Corvette "that never saw rain.
"I would check the weather before I ever took it out," he said of the car. Mr. Brody had 18 inches of water in his garage, and, because the Corvette sat so low, the rain got into the electronics. It was ruined.
"The car ended up being totaled by the insurance company," Mr. Brody said. "Those are things I worked real hard to buy so that when I was fully retired I had them to enjoy.
"They are all gone."
Mr. Brody's total loss, dollar-wise, was $80,000, between the car and the loss of the first floor and basement. Through insurance, he received about $40,000 of that back, he said.
"I learned the difference between federal flood insurance, and sewer backup insurance," he said. Federal flood insurance, which he didn't have, covered ground-level entry. It took until winter to get his home back to normal, Mr. Brody said. He has still not yet completely rebuilt his workshop.
Mr. Brody said that if it had been a fire, he has fire extinguishers, and "you can put a fire out.
"Water is different," he said. "There's nothing that you can do. I felt helpless."
The storm was a "complete and total act of God," Public Works Commissioner James S. Stanek, who was director of city services at that time, said.
"Even if your storm sewer system was perfect, you couldn't handle all that rain," Mr. Stanek said.
City Engineer John J. Busch agreed.
"You can't necessarily say the system failed," he said. "The storm was so intense, and our storm-sewer system is not sized for that nor is any other city's sized to handle that."
The City of North Royalton was affected similarly as Solon that day, Mr. Stanek said, while other communities had just an inch of rain.
Councilman William D. Mooney, who was the public works director at the time, said the city's initial focus was to try to identify the problems as quickly as they could and develop a plan for solving them. Some were short-term issues and others more long-term, he said.
"It was all-consuming, no doubt about that," Mr. Mooney said of the storm's aftermath. "For about six months it was all I had worked on."
In addition to public works, the safety and service departments also fielded calls and prioritized responses.
Mr. Mooney said that the problems resulting from the storm were worse than expected because the city did find that parts of the system were not working the way they should.
"We found detention basins that had not been maintained, some on public property and others on private," Mr. Mooney said. "We also found problems with some pipes."
The city was in "reactive mode" for the next 100 days, Mr. Stanek said, as it took nearly three weeks just to clean debris. Damage was widespread throughout the city, although some of the worst areas hit were North and South Huntington and Creekside and anything along Bainbridge Road. Damage was restricted mostly to basements.
They got FEMA involved immediately, Mr. Stanek said, as well as hiring URS Corp., which provides engineering, consulting and technical services, to establish a road map. This outlined steps for the city to follow in looking at the situation as a whole, Mr. Busch said.
"It helped in identifying those initial, secondary and tertiary goals and the road map to meet those goals," he said. It also allowed the city to do a lot of city-wide storm water modeling, which led to many of the detention basin projects that they have constructed since 2006.
The city also set up a storm-water residents committee to give input from a residents perspective, Mr. Busch said. That group still meets regularly.
"We are in much better shape than we were five years ago," Mr. Mooney said.
Months before the storm, the city had been in the process of putting a preventative maintenance program in place, "then in one day, it turned upside down by a single rainstorm," Construction project administrator Daniel Driscoll, who served as the sewer division manager at the time, said.
"Things took off after that," Mr. Driscoll recalled. "We did a lot of investigating and found no single problem other than a large amount of rain at individual residences. We did find a lot of things that needed maintaining."
Since the storm, the city has spent in excess of $15 million in the area of storm-water management, Mr. Stanek said. That includes evaluating existing storm systems, assisting residents with their drainage concerns, constructing detention basins, and performing other storm-sewer projects.
"Council definitely recognized the issue at the time and allowed us the opportunity to have full reign of things," Mr. Busch said. "It's really been a benefit to our storm-water management and our storm-sewer system as a whole."
Some of the many projects undertaken by the city included a new detention basin in the Creekside subdivision, the basin expansion in the Liberty Hill subdivision, the Woodbury detention basin expansion, storm-sewer improvements in Limberlost Trail, the Pepperwood storm-sewer replacement project as well as work in the Preserve subdivision. Upcoming is the Briar Hill lake dam modification later this year.
Also, the city has done extensive smoke and dye testing on private property, and illicit discharge detection and illumination throughout the community.
"We didn't waste a penny on this," Mr. Stanek said of all of the funds spent, "but I think we're going to get to a point where we've done as much as we can do. We'll get to a point where it won't make financial sense to go any further."
Mr. Stanek noted that all that has been accomplished in the last five years has been a "community effort" among city council, the administration and residents.
Mr. Mooney said that following the storm, he felt that the city workers in the engineering, public works and service departments did a "fantastic job of responding to residents and solving problems over the next several years.
"The response was excellent," he said.
"Between Jim Stanek, my ward Councilman Ed Kraus and Mayor (Kevin) Patton, within their limitation, they did and continue to do everything they can do," Mr. Brody said. "I feel comfortable that they have done what they can do to ensure this doesn't happen again.
"You'd think I'd have a bitter taste for the city after this, but it happened, and I don't," Mr. Brody said. "The city really stepped up."
Since that storm, the city has not had one of that same significance that could put the current system to a similar test, Mr. Driscoll said, "and I hope we don't get one."
"I definitely feel confident in saying that if we were to experience another storm similar to that, we would, in my opinion, fare much better than we have in 2006," Mr. Busch said.
"The work we have done will make a difference," Mr. Stanek said.
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