Flooding: Expect the Unexpected - WSPA.com

Flooding: Expect the Unexpected

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Pine Street flooded in Spartanburg (User Submitted) Pine Street flooded in Spartanburg (User Submitted)
Spartanburg, SC -

I don't need to tell anyone this: it's been wet lately.

I do need to tell you this:  it's possible we'll see more flooding in places we haven't seen before, or perhaps more frequently in places where we typically see flooding.

This isn't entirely about changing weather patterns.  This is about changing land patterns.

In the past couple of weeks, how many of you have seen things that you've never seen before because of heavy rain?  Maybe you've seen water in yards or ditches running higher than ever before after a downpour.  Maybe you've seen water over a road where you've never seen flooding before.  Or maybe you've seen water shooting upwards out of a storm drain…something that happened in the back yard of our station on Monday!

When it rains, water needs somewhere to go.  Some of it will soak into the ground.  But when the soil is saturated or if it rains too hard in too short a time, the water runs off…heading, hopefully, into areas we want it to go.  Storm drains, rivers, streams.  And even so, it can pile up…ending up in areas where we don't want it and we get flooding.

What happens if there's less room for that water to soak in?  Or run off?  Or the direction of that run-off gets changed?  Then water can end up in places it might not have ended up before.

In 1995, the remnants of Tropical Storm Jerry brought over ten inches of rain to parts of the Upstate.  Some of you may remember the flooding, and might expect to see similar results if something like that were to happen again. 

We also have many more businesses and neighborhoods in places where there was nothing nearly twenty years ago.

What does this mean?  The more spread out we are, the more likely it is some of us will be closer to…if not actually in…areas prone to flooding.  Plus, development can change run-off patterns…the effects of which may not be evident until a big rain hits.  Thanks to several periods of drought in the past dozen or so years, we have not had as many opportunities to see what very heavy rain can do.

So if we were to see a repeat of 1995?  Areas of flooding may be different than what some of you remember.  And if they aren't, they're still more likely to affect more people.

Even without such a major event, locally heavy downbursts like we've seen recently may result in some things some of you haven't seen before.

Hopefully we won't be seeing a foot of rain anytime soon.  But don't be surprised if more of us start seeing the "unexpected" when we get very heavy rain.

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