It should be no surprise when the Water Resources Department gives a report on water, but the message was that Greensboro has been getting more water than it can handle.
It wasn’t drinking water that was being discussed but rain water or what the city calls stormwater at the City Council Work Session on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
Assistant Director Water Resources Kristine Williams said that the normal precipitation for Greensboro is 42 inches a year, but in 2018 the city had 70 inches, and in 2019 it had 64 inches. So for two years in a row the city has had a significant increase in rainfall.
Assistant City Manager Chris Wilson said, “The new normal is different than in years past when it comes to weather.”
Williams noted that in 2018 the increase in rainfall was largely attributed to Hurricanes Florence and Michael, but in 2019 it wasn’t hurricanes but intense rainfall during the summer.
To make matters worse, Williams said that the intense rainfall hit one particular area that is drained by North Buffalo Creek, resulting in flooding that caused both residential and commercial property damage.
Williams said the Water Resources Department was working on several solutions. One is engineering where the size of pipes and culverts is increased.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “Our pipes are built for 10 year rains and we are seeing 100 year rains with some frequency.”
Where an engineering solution is not possible, Williams said the city was purchasing flood prone properties. She said that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money was available in some cases.
So far the city has purchased four such properties – two houses and two vacant lots.
The vacant lots are the infamous Mount Latham – lots on Latham Road just off Wendover Avenue. In that case a developer used fill dirt to raise the lots above the flood plain, making them legally buildable lots.
Williams said that regulations could also be changed to make building in flood plains more difficult, but currently the city had nothing in place to stop someone from building in the floodplain as long as they met the minimum requirements.
Vaughan said, “We’ve had people not in floodplains flooding all over town.”
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter asked about debris, such as leaves, blocking storm sewers and somehow that got the City Council off on the topic of mitigating flood damage and on to the topic of loose leaf collection.