August 18, 2014 - Last Monday while driving home from a presentation in Birmingham, I saw something I have never seen before. There was so much water, creating so much pressure on the storm system that I saw a manhole cover literally explode out of the manhole! Incredible!
Monday was, indeed, an incredible day. I don't think I have ever seen so much rain in just a few hours. Each major piece of the public infrastructure system was taxed and pieces of each failed. The unprecedented rainfall severely impacted the road, storm and sewer, and electric systems, resulting in flooding in the streets and in many basements, as well as loss of electricity in some areas.
This situation was even worse on sections of the freeway, especially those below grade. Pumps are supposed to pump excess water out off the freeway, but many of the pumps either were overwhelmed by the volume of water or simply failed to work. Of course, I wonder where the pumps were supposed to pump the water to!
The result? Over 10 feet of water in some places. Water that covered several cars completely. By the way, the storm also knocked out electric service in several places which impacted the pumps on the freeway. I can't imagine having no electricity while watching water invade your basement. I feel so bad for so many people who had to endure that situation…and may still be.
The result? Cars totaled by their insurance companies, tons of bags of what used to be basement furniture, and personal things out on the street, people missing work to stay home and wait for help.
There have been several news stories about what happened and how we fix the situation. Mother Nature can display awesome power – power we cannot ever hope to totally mitigate. It is unreasonable to build an infrastructure system to address a storm of this size. A meteorologist said today that it was a once-every-500-years storm! However, it exposed the weakness in our public infrastructure system. We need to learn from this, prioritize improvements, and focus the resources we have on the most important improvements. We certainly need additional funding to improve the systems. We will never have the funds we need to fix everything, but we can make improvements over time.
It is our only chance to even begin to address the power of Mother Nature.
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