Flash flooding concerns in Kenton County

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

COVINGTON, KY (FOX19) - There are plenty of concerns for those who live in areas prone to flooding. It was only eight months ago when neighborhoods in parts of Covington saw extreme flooding.

Back in July, basements and houses flooded. But, probably the single biggest and maybe most dangerous difference between that massive rain then and now is the latter happened late in the afternoon. People could see the water rising and could take action.

The heaviest rains with this storm are expected to arrive when most of use are sleeping overnight.

Who can forget some of the incredible flash flood images from last summer. From the guy who stepped out into a landslide of water cascading down a steep street, which took him with it, to the images from Peaselburg, in Covington, where storm drains just could not handle the deluge from the skies.

"It's very difficult to predict exactly the intensity and the duration of the storm and what effect it's going to have on our system," said Mark Wurschmidt, who is Deputy Executive Director of Engineering with SD1. "So, we just have to respond accordingly."

SD1 is the Kenton County agency charged with keeping you safe. Wurschmidt said they have about 40 trouble call staff members ready right now.

"We just make sure all of our crews and equipment are ready to go at a moment's notice," he said.

Many of the county's underground storm drains date back to the early 1,900's and are about 5-feet around in circumference.

They're nearly big enough to walk around in, and tall Wurschmidt has been inside many of them, making sure they're clear.

"We have a combined sewer system and so storm water and sanitary waste goes into these collection lines and obviously a lot of grit and debris can get in to the sewer systems," he said.

And that means you could have been walking around in:

"E-coli, viruses, parasites, chemicals that are run off from other sources in there, toilet paper, waste matter," said Steve Divine, with the Environmental arm of the Northern Kentucky Health Department.

"However, realizing that, in heavy rain events, most of it is storm water, so it's going to be very diluted," said Wurschmidt.

Still, the best way to keep you safe is to keep out.

Another way the county is keeping you safe, is a massive terraced and re-forestation project, along the cut in the hill.

About a million dollars in federal stimulus money paid for all the green mesh lining the hillsides. All the green meshing is really helping to hold the plants in, so they can get big enough and strong enough, to help with abating the storm water as it runs down some of the terraces.

"It's slowing being captured on each of those steps where we have the trees," Wurschmidt said. "So, the water infiltrates into each of those stepped areas, and then it goes into an under drain system, where it's discharged, so it slows down the rate of runoff."

This will reduce the amount of water that reaches the bottom of the hill, by 3.1 million gallons a year.

Engineers are also constructing a series of water retention basins throughout Kenton County, to help ease the storm run-off in the hardest-hit areas by flash flooding.

Some of them get their first test, later Thursday night.

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