Southampton Town Superintendent of Highways Alex Gregor believes the rain storm of March 29, 2010 will go down in the history books as the most catastrophic weather event of the year. The title is no small feat in a 12-month period that experienced blizzards and heatwaves.
“That rain did more damage than all of the snow storms,” Gregor remarked to the town board during a work session on Thursday, August 19. “It caused more property damage and more chaos for our residents trying to get to and from work,” Gregor observed.
Just how bad was the tempest of March? According to Gregor, 26 roads throughout Southampton Town had to be closed due to flooding, including a stretch of Norris Lane in Bridghamption, which was shut down for about a month. Brookhaven National Laboratory reported that March 2010 was the wettest month on record since they started recording rainfall in 1949.
Gregor explained the flooding, and lingering puddles, caused by the spring storm was exacerbated by historically high ground water levels. With the soil already saturated, the rainwater had little place to go. These troubles were coupled with a storm water infrastructure meant to handle less severe weather patterns.
Presenting a summary of the spots most affected by the rainfall and broad mitigation plans, Gregor handed supervisor Anna Throne-Holst a two inch binder with his findings at last week’s work session.
“Most of the in-ground structures are designed to handle two inches of storm water in a 24 hour period . . . depending on the data we had, anywhere from seven to nine-and-a-half inches fell in a 30 hour period. Most of that rain fell in a short period of time,” Gregor explained to a full board, minus councilwoman Bridget Fleming. “We were getting the most severe weather all the time and our drainage and recharge basins were taxed to the limit.”
Showing the 26 most severe flooding locations, Gregor called the report a master list for future mitigation projects and a ballpark estimate for these remedies. Aided by Joe Klein with L.K. McLean Associations, Gregor pointed to many spots in Bridgehampton, like Scuttlehole Road to Mitchells Lane and Noyac Path to Cooks Lane. The road closure sites were provided by the town police and highway department. Klein explained that he looked at the required storm water storage volume and the groundwater depth at the flood site. He determined the theoretical drainage needs based on an estimate of a five-inch rain event for undeveloped areas and an eight-inch rain event for developed areas. A few areas are already in the midst of mitigation projects, and were thus not fully analyzed by Klein and Gregor.
Klein noted that the town will need around $15 million to construct concrete drainage structures to store a sufficient amount of storm water at every spot. However, this price doesn’t include any roadway or shoulder restoration. In addition, the plan requires 61 acres to create recharges basis. Seven of the major flood sites are surrounded by town land, but many of the sites in Bridgehampton don’t have public land available.
With some board members balking at the purchase of 61 acres, and others saying it is an impossibility, Gregor noted his department will look at solutions on a case by case basis and explore less expensive solutions. He added that many of the storm water infrastructure problems are exacerbated by runoff from agricultural lands. Gregor wants to do an aggressive outreach campaign, geared towards local agriculturalists, who may be able to plant buffer crops that would lessen the impact of runoff on the town system.
Gregor called fixing these spots a multi-year program. Some of the projects will be budgeted in next year’s highway department budget while others will come out of the drainage budget.
“This document is a game plan,” Gregor said of the report.