New study reveals causes of Frederick flooding

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After the May 2018, city officials moved to conduct study on causes, possible solutions

FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — Devastating floods have hit the City of Frederick more than once in the past four years. A new study looks into the areas most impacted and the causes of major flooding.

After a devastating storm on May 15, 2018 dropped up to 8 inches of rain and flooded streets, homes and businesses, the City of Frederick formed a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) to look into the cause and possible solutions.

“We committed very quickly to figure out whether or not and how we could undertake a more robust evaluation of prevention tools,” Mayor Michael O’Connor explained.  

The partnership was formed in September of 2018, and on Wednesday the “Flood Resiliency Study” was presented by Craig Thomas with USACOE at a board of alderman and mayor workshop.

The study focused on four task areas within the city that O’Connor said were most prone to flooding:

            Task 1: Motter Avenue Area Stormwater Improvement Task

            Task 2: Kline Avenue Stormwater Improvements

            Task 3: Detrick Branch at North Maket Street Flood Improvements

            Task 4: Maryvale Ditch at West Patrick Street Flood Improvements

Within Tasks 1 and Task 2, the study found issues with inadequate pipe sizes for stormwater sewer systems that lead to the flood of homes and businesses.

“The water just once it gets into these areas, when you get three inches of rain in an hour, those pipes just aren’t sized to handle that much water,” Thomas explained.

In an email Thomas added, “During the May 2018 storm, in the Motter Avenue study area, approximately 23-percent of the stormwater pipes had flow exceed their design capacity, and for the Kline Boulevard Area, that would be 43-percent” he continued, “What this means is that the flow coming into the pipe exceeded the sizeable to handle that flow, which causes back-ups and the water comes back out of the system onto the ground.”

Thomas says Task 3 and Task 4 were specifically identified due to flooded area roadways that hindered emergency vehicles passing through.   

Overall, the study found a significant amount of impervious land, like shopping centers and residential areas, which did not have stormwater management.

The YMCA of Frederick County was severely hit by the May 2018 storm and during the meeting, CEO Chris Colville urged the city to take meaningful action.

“My challenge to the mayor and to the city is to really take a hard look at this, commit financial resources, commit personnel to investigate this and continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to come up with a plan,” Colville said.

USACOE now looks to draft flood reduction measures that could be released for city comment next spring. The city is also looking to prioritize tasks one and two.

Additionally, the city and USACOE have also decided to include a third task area that includes historic downtown Frederick.

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