It wasn't just the quantity of last night's rainfall that was brutal. It was the quality. It was hard rain, the kind that punches you in top of your the head. It was the sort of precipitation that pounded petunias into a puddle of petals.
"The water was so intense that it was pulling down lots of pine needles into the streets," says city spokeswoman Marlene Feist. "It ripped all the blooms off the trees."
The needles knocked loose from the trees ended up clogging drains across the city.
The city's headworks, the wastewater treatment plant's screens that filter out "pine needles and crapola," Feist says, were clogged as well.
A flood of dirt, rock and debris shut down T.J. Meenach Bridge until midnight. At Francis and Cannon, Feist says, vehicles got stranded because they were so deep. The Post Street hill was closed briefly because so much water was pooling at the bottom. The accumulation of water at Fifth and Maple/Walnut ended up backing up southbound traffic all the way across the Maple Street Bridge.
The city's wastewater strategy has been to engineer the streets, sidewalks nearby into spaces that slowly soak up water — using gravel, grass and vegetation — instead of overwhelming the system by sending a deluge of dirty water into the city's sewers. But engineering can only do so much.
"Our tanks are not designed to handle this flow," Feist says. "An inch in 20 minutes is not something you can build something big enough to handle."
Of the city's 23 combined sewer overflow tanks, Feist says, 10 overflowed. By now, Feist says, the city's wastewater management crews have unplugged most of the drains and vacuumed up the standing water. Rain is forecasted to continue today. But this, at least, is at the level they can handle.
I'd planned on going on a long bike ride after work yesterday. Instead, I rode my bike home through Kendall Yards and Peaceful Valley and snapped a few photos along the way.
In Spokane, puddle stomps you