Ewart Avenue flooding

A strong thunderstorm moved through Raleigh County Wednesday evening resulting in many areas facing flooding issues. One such location was the vicinity of the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and Youth Museum along Ewart Avenue, at left.

The Beckley Sanitary Board issued the following statement about the flooding: “On the evening of July 3, 2019, Beckley experienced one of the most significant storms in the city’s history. Beckley Sanitary Board’s rain gauge network measured over 3 1/2 inches of rainfall in less than 2 hours. According to NOAA’s Atlas 14, which is used to characterize storm events, this two hour storm is considered a 500 year event. A 500 year storm and flood is understood as a storm that on any given year has a .02 percent chance of occurring. Thus, this was a very unusual extreme rainfall. As a frame of reference most storm sewers are currently designed to convey 10 to 25 year rainfall events. This storm did result in flooding of roadways and properties in our service area. BSB personnel were out yesterday evening and will be out in the coming days assessing the storm’s impact.”

Photo courtesy Erica Taylor Williams

Seven residents shared the same seven problems Tuesday evening with Beckley Common Council — flooding, flooding and more flooding. 

While acknowledging the rare flood event July 3, Douglas Sayre spoke of previous flooding on Sisson Street and Piney Avenue. 

"We've had problems before," Sayre said. "We need a long term solution."

The Sanitary Board acknowledged the rainfall on its Facebook on July 4, noting, "Beckley experienced one of the most significant storms in our city's history."

The Beckley Sanitary Board's rain gauge network measured more than three and a half inches of rainfall in less than two hours. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storm was considered a 500-year event, meaning it has a 0.2 percent chance of occurring on any given year. 

Each speaker Tuesday evening shared with Mayor Rob Rappold and council members issues caused by this particular rainfall, but the majority said flooding in their area was not isolated to this instance. 

"This problem has been ongoing for four years," said Karen Creager, who spoke of flooding in the basement of a rental property. 

She criticized the city's allocation of funding, arguing more money needs to be spent on infrastructure. 

Jeremiah Johnson, general manager at Beckley Sanitary Board, addressed council and attendees, noting that the amount of rainfall was more than the city is accustomed to.

"It's more than these systems are designed to handle." 

Despite the rainfall happening on the eve of a holiday, Johnson said crews were out until midnight, and continued working through July 4 visiting several properties. Crews continued working July 5 and 6 as well, he said. 

Since the storm, Johnson said 63 storm-related work orders have been received. Perhaps the biggest issue of all those received, he said, was the collapse of the parking lot at Old Colony Real Estate. 

Johnson said an obstruction was found in the pipe, and crews worked Monday to assess the situation and begin repairs. 

Charlie Gillian and his sister Jamie Carr spoke about this issue, which caused three feet of water to flood their nearby barber shop. 

"Six years ago, the place flooded for the first time in 60 or 70 years," Gillian said. 

He said the sanitary board identified the issue, a blocked culvert, and the issue was resolved. But this time, the issue came from the property on the other side. 

"That's what everybody is complaining about," Gillian said. "There are too many bandaids that don't really fix the problems." 

Johnson said the sanitary board is trying to address infrastructure problems, noting 64 areas for improvements have been identified as part of a capital improvement project. 

Mayor Rappold said the stormwater fees have not been raised since 2007, so after the capital improvements are outlined, the city and the sanitary board will work with a consultant to determine what is needed to complete the identified projects. 

"Your complaints don't fall on deaf ears," Rappold said. "We're just as frustrated as you are." 

Johnson also noted a study has been conducted on the Robert C. Byrd Drive/Ewart Avenue drainage issues. An $11 million fix is needed, but the "Department of Highways disengaged," he said, which led the Beckley Sanitary Board to take the money on hand and create a drainage pond. 

Johnson and several council members expressed the need to get the state on board for more long-term solutions. 

"More pressure is going to have to be applied to get them interested in working with us," Johnson said. 

The Beckley Sanitary Board will meet Wednesday at 9 a.m. at 301 S. Heber St. in Beckley. 

 — Email: wholdren@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren

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