Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The snow has melted, now what?

Fortunately for Grand Rapids, after a relentless winter, we had a cool and dry March - which gave the 5 inches of water we'd built up in snow form a chance to melt and run off slowly. So far, despite a bit of ice dam panic, we haven't had too much flooding.

In the last week we've had warmer days, and most of the snow is now gone. Over the next few days, we could see some very wintry precipitation, including snow, ice, freezing rain, and rain, and next week looks likely for some wetter weather. Which means we could see the Grand River rising again, something no one wants after last year's destruction - which cost $13.1 million in Kent County alone.

The City of Grand Rapids has been negotiating with FEMA over the height of its floodwalls and attempting to woo Walker into sharing the cost of extending them along the river's northwest side.  Engineers have analyzed the weaknesses in the current floodwall system. A 100-year flood event - or a flood that has a 1% risk of happening in any year - would result in significant city flooding. In the interim, although city manager Greg Sundstrom does not believe we are looking at even lesser category flooding like last year's, the city has purchased 50,000 sandbags just in case so that, if necessary, the levees near Turner Ave. could be sandbagged and flooding in the city, like it saw in 1904, would be avoided. The wastewater treatment facility, which was sandbagged last year, is also a concern.

Sandbags are certainly good to have around in the short term, but it would be nice to feel confident that the city is on top of this issue. Because April is traditionally quite a rainy month, and our ground is still pretty saturated. It wouldn't take that much more rainfall to cause problems - now or some other spring.