On Wednesday, Jan. 16, multiple streets flooded in the neighborhood around Ivy Loop. My wife and I were alerted to flooding by a neighbor, whose name or residence I do not even know, persistently ringing our doorbell at 9:25 pm. We moved one car from the driveway to garage and another car on the street, already in more than 20 inches of water, to the driveway. The car on the street was a total loss. For the next hour and a half, we watched the water line, hoping the floodwater would not reach our house. We were lucky, as the water stopped rising about halfway up our driveway. Others were less fortunate when their houses flooded and as nobody in Winters is obligated to buy flood insurance, flooding could cause significant financial hardship.
According to the newspaper and eyewitness accounts, by design the detention pond west of the cemetery overflowed onto Foxglove Circle and the surrounding streets. Camera footage from our street shows the flooding started at approximately 7:40 p.m. and peaked on our street at 8:30 p.m. Water from the overflowing pond flooded houses adjacent to the pond and destroyed at least two more cars on my street that were not moved to higher ground. Eyewitnesses said the pond was full Wednesday morning after Tuesday night’s rain. This was also the first major storm since the pond was renovated to accommodate additional runoff from the new housing development.
The city manager organized a meeting for Sunday, Feb. 10 to discuss with affected residents what happened during the flood and how the pond was managed. After the meeting, I have little confidence in our city’s ability to respond to flooding caused by another large storm or any other type of future emergency. The city manager did not know when the pumps that drain the pond would be operational, changing his answer from two weeks to one month. Perfect timing, the pond pumps will be fully functioning in time for summer. The city manager also did not know the pond capacity or how much rain it would take to reach capacity. This is vital information to understand when and if the pond should be visually inspected to ensure pumps are operating.
Police Chief Miller told me that the police were not informed before or during the flooding, therefore they could not alert residents to the potential for property damage. He made it clear that the police were only called to provide traffic control on Main Street near the Public Safety Building. As reported by the Winters Express, Winters Fire stumbled upon the flooding while making their rounds. However, the city was called on the morning before the flooding to alert them to the full pond and the city engineer came out to look at it. Why weren’t emergency personnel made aware of the potential for flooding? Additionally, the city manager admitted that his team and emergency personnel had not discussed the events leading up to the flooding. It is critical to debrief immediately after a disaster when events are fresh in everyone’s mind. As time passes, individuals’ memories of the event can change or become hazy. How is the city going to respond to a future emergency if they have not adequately evaluated the response to the flooding?
I fear the city management will not learn from this disaster. Developing a response plan and training city employees will go a long way to ensure future flood damage is avoided. The pond level should be monitored and when capacity is full, residents should be alerted. One thing is for sure, I will be parking my car on higher ground in the next storm we have.Bruno Pitton]]>