In 2008, the city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) blamed the high water in part on clogged storm drains. A June 10, 2008 news account from the Herald-Times about the Kirkwood floods stated, “Street inlets clogged with debris were a culprit, blocking water from draining into the system where it belongs, rather than sloshing on the streets.”
That was not the case for last weekend’s flooding, according to CBU’s director of transmission and distribution Brandon Prince.
At the meeting of the utilities service board on Wednesday, chair Jean Capler asked specifically about clogged storm drains as a contributing factor to last weekend’s flooding.
Prince told the board CBU had around 10 people out in the field on Saturday and Sunday. “Primarily, we really didn’t see a clog issue,” he said.
When the water started to recede, blocked drains became “a bit of an issue,” Prince said. That meant CBU crews did clean a lot of inlets in those two days, Prince said, adding that most of the inlet clearing came on Sunday.
That follows 5 to 7 inches of rain that fell over a shorter period last weekend, which flooded a downtown Bloomington street, overtopped a county bridge with debris, and caused the floodwaters to sweep up one car, leaving its driver dead.
The 6.1 inches measured on IU’s campus was the highest two-day total in the last century.
Does last weekend’s single event prove the case for climate change?
When The B Square spoke on Wednesday with Gabriel Filippelli, professor of earth sciences at IUPUI, he said, “Each given intense rainfall event does not mean that climate change has descended on us.”
Filippelli continued, “However, when you look at the regional records and you see the number of days Indiana has had extreme rainfall events, it has gone up substantially from about the end of the 1980s on.”
The amount of extreme rainfall in central Indiana has gone up by about 15 percent since 1990, Filippelli said. He continued, “The projections are, it’s going to go up another 15 percent by 2050.”
That means extreme rainfall will continue to be likely in this area, he said. He added, “Whether climate change will make them worse or not, it’s hard to say, ”
From left: Bloomington public works director Adam Wason; Bloomington fire chief Jason Moore. People’s Park gathering on June 21, 2021
Firefighters at intersection of Grant Street and Kirkwood Avenue. Early morning of June 19, 2021.
Bloomington’s fire station at Fourth and Lincoln streets in downtown will be closed, “for an unknown period of time,” according to a press release issued by the city early Wednesday afternoon.
The closing is due to damage sustained to the station during last weekend’s flooding, when 5 to 7 inches of rain fell on Bloomington from late Friday night into Saturday morning.
According to the press release, the equipment and personnel for the downtown station will be redeployed at one of the city’s other four stations.
According to the press release, the time for firefighters to respond to calls will not be compromised due to the closure: “Based on a careful reallocation of equipment and personnel, no significant delays in emergency response times are anticipated.”
[Updated at 3:58 p.m. on June 23, 2021: In a press release issued late Wednesday afternoon, the city of Bloomington announced that the police station, on 3rd Street, a block south of the closed fire station, is able to continue normal operations despite flood damage. According to the release, the losses included “significant damage to electronic and computer equipment.”
In the mid-morning hours on Saturday, business owners along Kirkwood were starting the work of clean up and damage assessment.
The flood outside the Village Deli on Kirkwood last night meant the basement was filled with six feet of water on Saturday morning. Owner Bob Costello told The B Square he hopes to be back open in a week. But it will mean replacing the point-of-sale computer server, which was swamped by the floodwaters.