"If you go down this alley you'll see these garages with these rust lines up and down the way, it's like it just happened yesterday," said
About halfway between the alley's exit onto
The couple have learned from their experiences. Wading through knee-deep water, McKew and Amann moved their cars from the alley last year to avoid a repeat of 2015's flood, which totaled both of their cars.
Still, nothing can prevent the powerful surge of water from reaching their basement.
"We've talked to multiple mitigation companies, and all we've heard is there's nothing we can do."
"We've talked to multiple mitigation companies, and all we've heard is there's nothing we can do," Amann said with a fatalistic shrug, looking down into the stairwell leading to the basement door behind their home. "If we put in a heavier door, it'll just break, any pump we use will get overwhelmed. ... The solution is coming from the drain out there."
Despite the damage they experienced, McKew and Amann were fortunate that the federal flood insurance they signed up for after the 2015 disaster covered most of the
The last insurance settlement check arrived about a week earlier, but no amount of money or mitigation will comfort McKew and Amann when clouds roll overhead and raindrops begin to fall.
"There is definitely some anxiety every time it rains, because I'm afraid it's going to happen again. ... There's been a lot of nights where one of us has gotten up and run to the window to check to make sure the alley wasn't filling up again," Amann said.
McKew agreed, saying that the financial impact of the flood, paying deductibles and balancing making repairs with insurance payments, ultimately pales in comparison with the stress of having their lives disrupted and their property destroyed.
"I know that the city's taking steps, they were talking about all kinds of different studies and solutions [last year]," McKew said. "But I will definitely feel much better when I know what the city is doing to make sure this doesn't ever happen again."
After the flood on
"The areas we are seeing flooding are areas developed before stormwater management,"
"Everything uphill of you, drains down into you," Kershner said.
He met with the corps two weeks ago to review a preliminary model of the four flood-prone areas its engineers are designing. The model simulates the ground conditions and underlying infrastructure in different rain conditions to show how the water moves across the land and where it reaches the city's stormwater system.
Kershner anticipates the recommendations will include a mix of projects where existing infrastructure is redesigned to more modern standards and increases the capacity of infrastructure by installing larger or parallel pipes to move water away more efficiently.
The changes, however, won't be cheap.
The city has already proposed spending
The permit requires the city to control nutrients and sediment coming off its hard surfaces -- roads, buildings, driveways -- that flow into rivers and eventually the
Flood control, however, is not an objective of the permit. The purpose of the permit is to better control the quality of stormwater, rather than the quantity, Kershner said. Knowing that flooding is a problem locally, though,
"When you put dollars to that, it's going to come to the least cost," Kershner said.
On its own, 5 inches of rain does not sound like a significant amount of water. But when 5 inches of rain falls on a drainage basin that is largely covered by hard surfaces -- houses, roads, driveways -- the water magnifies as it rushes downstream.
That's why the
"It was just like the ocean. ... You could see a wave of water just sweep up the street and into our yards."
"There was this little white
Roughly 150 acres drain into the
"If I had to only be worried about the water that fell on my property, we'd be fine,"
With no significant ponds to catch and slow the flow of the water, the 5 inches of rain could have swelled to an estimated 20 million gallons of water -- equal to 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools -- by the time it reached the stormwater pipe under the
Instead, the overfilled pipe pushed the water up through the inlets and drains -- that should have directed water into it -- and out onto the parking lot, road and
The day after the flood, the
To try to prevent another flood from ravaging the building, the
During the 2018 flood, however, floodwater came in from underground and up through the sewer system, she said. The
In all, the
Better than before
For homeowners and businesses in the parts of
One of the most significant places not to flood extensively on
"If that flood project hadn't been there, downtown would have looked like the mid-'70s," Kershner said, referring to the 1976 flood when 7 inches of rain fell on the city in less than 16 hours.
Flooding towpath then and now
A foot bridge along the C&O canal towpath was washed away in the flood in
Staff photo by
That flood devastated much of downtown and caused between
The majority of the stormwater infrastructure built in the city of
Local regulation dictates that any stormwater project that connects to
"Even today, you don't design a storm drain for close to a 100-year storm. Just like you don't design the church parking lot for Easter Sunday."
"Even today, you don't design a storm drain for close to a 100-year storm," Kershner said. "Just like you don't design the church parking lot for Easter Sunday."
As such, the majority of
After last year's flood, his team inspected the infrastructure of all the flooded areas and found no defects. This may be an indication that the city's stormwater infrastructure is undersized for the volume and intensity of rainfall of major storm events.
If a similar storm were to strike
The storms caused more than
While McKew and Amann have weathered both disasters in their home on
Even still, the couple had a close call last year, when their basement flooded twice, first when the water poured in from outside, then again the next morning when the city's overburdened stormwater system backed up and the basement re-flooded. Thankfully, their federal insurance covered both.
Others have decided to leave, rather than waiting to flood again. At least one of McKew and Amann's nearby neighbors has moved in the year since the flood.
For them, it wasn't worth waiting for a third flood.
Want to learn more? Check out the Uncut podcast this week to hear from a resident who was caught in the 2018 flood and what their year has looked like as the waters receded.
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