Heavy rains raise questions among residents about Roanoke's flood preparedness


ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - For the third time this year, the Star City is hit with major flooding.

Monday afternoon, business owners and people living downtown cleaned up the water left behind and say they want a solution.

However, Roanoke's Storm Water Utility Manager says it's unlikely any significant changes will come anytime soon.

It's hard to tell people who just experienced potentially thousands of dollars in damage and loss of revenue that it's just mother nature, but Storm Water Utility Manager Dwayne D'Ardenne says aside from a total overhaul of the downtown utility system, when Roanoke gets a major storm, there's going to be floods.

Keith Clinton says he knew there was going to be trouble shortly after Monday's storm began.

"I turned and looked down towards Campbell Court and that was completely flooded over. There was nothing but water down there and it was all rushing this way," said Clinton, who owns R.T. Smith's Deli on Campbell Avenue.

Clinton says out the window of his restaurant, he could see three feet of water.

"We've got a full block of businesses here, and every single one of them had water in it. Even the guy upstairs had water going in his doorway, and his doorway is elevated," said Clinton.

Just down the street, Michelle Knowles had her car flooded for the second time this year.

"It's worse this time, the water is standing on the floorboard. I haven't gotten too far into it though, but this time it did get into my seats and my speakers and all the electrical parts are sounding funny," said Knowles, who had her car parked on First Street.

Clinton says, all this damage begs the question.

"What's going on with the storm drains? They've been out cleaning them all the time and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. I mean I know the storm drains are only so big and they're a hundred years old in some cases, but there's got to be something that can be done," said Clinton.

D'Ardenne says simply put, the system in some places is 100 years old and not built to handle it.

"When you're talking about an inch of rain over the course of 15 or 20 minutes, that's just, that kind of deluge, we're never going to be able to handle that kind of deluge," said D'Ardenne.

He says a project to replace the infrastructure right now is not even on the City's radar.

"If you're talking about digging up the entirety of Campbell Avenue for that length, that's major disruption, major cost, and that may be what it comes to down the road, but I don't think anybody's willing to go there right now," said D'Ardenne.

D'Ardenne says the best his crews can do is clear the pipes of debris.

Clinton says if nothing else, he hopes in the future traffic on Campbell can be stopped so the water doesn't get pushed under his door.

"If you can't pump it out, then shut the streets down, because even the market building got hit with the dooleys going by," said Clinton.

D'Ardenne says there has been talk of replacing the infrastructure downtown, but it's just one of a backlog of 240 projects the City is considering, valued at $84 million dollars.