Rain submerges city
WORTHINGTON -- By 7 a.m. Thursday morning, Worthington had received not quite half an inch of rainfall.
If nature's faucet had shut off then, the city's water system could have dealt with the runoff from the storm.
But the heavens opened up and dumped another 2.95 inches of precipitation throughout the morning, wreaking havoc on both the storm and sanitary sewer lines.
"We did not need this," said Dennis Apel, Worthington wastewater superintendent, as he checked the rainfall totals at the city's official reporting station on Thursday afternoon. "With the rain we had before that, adding through the week what we already had -- .20 yesterday at 7 a.m., .45 the day before that, 1.56 and 1.52 before that -- we didn't need any rain this week period."
Just a mile north of the city, a portion of U.S. 59 was down to one lane for a time after water from the furious downpour flowed across the road.
Sections of other roads were closed at various points around Worthington while everyone waited for the waters to recede.
Over in the West Clary Street/Elmwood Avenue neighborhood, residents shook their heads in dismay at the intersection that was completely under water.
"This is the worst I've seen it," said Dave Livingston.
"It used to go down right away," added his wife, Marge Livingston. "But for the last two years, it's done this."
Not only the intersection was under water. Driveways several lots onto West Clary Street and on Elmwood were swamped, and the occasional belch from sump pumps could be seen rising to the surface.
While some sections of road around town had been blocked off with sawhorses by the street department, the Elmwood/West Clary intersection was not, even though the water was several feet deep.
"I don't know if something is plugged or what," resident George Doust said. "There are two drains on Elwood, but there isn't any water swirling around like its trying to go down."
The issue at the junction of Elmwood and Clary Street is in the storm sewer, according to Apel.
"It had to do with a lot of tree roots in the storm lines," he said. "We spent a lot of time there last year cutting roots out of those lines, and it also doesn't take the water fast enough for some reason."
"We called the city," Dave Livingston said. "They didn't say anything."
"Last time this happened, the water didn't go down until about 2 or 3 a.m. the next morning," Marge added.
The Livingstons had more than 3 inches of rain since 5 a.m., according to their rain gauge.
One car that tried to get through the water stalled, Dave said, and the driver had to push it through the knee-high depths until she hit dry land.
Looking over the flooded street, Doust had to chuckle.
"I only hope the city doesn't raise our taxes because we're now on lakefront property," he said.
Stepping out of his shoes, Doust walked in his stocking feet into the street to check the depths of the water.
Neighbors standing on the sidewalk teased and joked as he waded in.
"What are you doing out there?" one neighbor yelled. "Are you going to raise your arms and part it?"
The water department had crews out as soon as the rainfall became an issue and began trying to alleviate the pressure on the city's sanitary system. A tractor pump with a higher capacity was also brought in.
"We've been pumping out into the street in five spots," Apel said. "There's a mark on the manhole that we have to go by, and if it gets to that mark, we start setting pumps up, but this time we just went out and did it. I'm sure it was up to the mark."
While some areas seem to be chronic problems in the event of a heavy rainfall such as occurred Thursday, new trouble spots do surface, and crews must check out each issue, which is difficult when the lines are full.
In a best-case scenario, Apel was hopeful the water issues would resolve overnight and the pressure would be off the system by this morning.
"A lot depends on the creeks," he said Thursday afternoon. "The creeks have to come down. If they come down tonight, by tomorrow morning a lot of the sanitary lines we'll be able to shut the pumps off."