Youngstown, local public works directors defend drainage systems

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Rain came down fast and hard Monday evening in Youngstown, causing flooding on a number of area streets.

On Tuesday, the heads of several local public works departments said that with the amount of water seen Monday, there is little that can be done.

Austintown Township Administrator and Road Superintendent Michael Dockry said that he had received a handful of calls from residents with water in their yards and was still trying to figure out if anyone’s house had flooded.

“Roads flooding in a storm like that is supposed to happen,” Dockry said. “If you can contain the flooding to a street, that’s what’s supposed to happen.”

Dockry said water in the street means that it is flowing and moving, rather than getting into houses.

Several Austintown residents had gotten water in an electrical box in their houses, but Dockry said that was because of poor sealing of the houses, not faults in the drainage system.

Youngstown Deputy Director of Public Works Charles Shasho agreed that the city’s pipes just are not designed to handle such a large quantity of rain.

“In general, I think our system handled things the way it’s designed,” Shasho said. “That doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement.”

Shasho said the city’s box culvert, or main underground water-carrying pipe, was developed based on a 20-year study, cost $4 or $5 million to install and is designed to handle a “10-year storm,” or a storm so strong that it occurs once every 10 years. Monday night’s storm exceeded the average strength of such a storm.

Officials were still assessing damage as of Tuesday morning, and Shasho said there may be some water damage on Oak Hill Avenue in Youngstown, as well as some minor debris spread across the city.

Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti said that even if increasing the size of the pipe were more feasible from a financial standpoint, it would not necessarily solve the problem. During storms, debris such as tree limbs can get stuck in a drainage system, meaning a pipe that would normally be big enough could not handle all the water coming at it. Ginnetti also said that it is hard to predict how much water could flow through the system in a storm.

Ginnetti has chosen instead to focus on aggressive routine maintenance, such as trimming trees and roadside vegetation.

“The better we can do with our routine maintenance, the longer our road system is going to last,” Ginnetti said.

It is imporant for drivers to avoid flooded regions of roadway. Even if water does not look that deep, it can still keep a car from running properly, according to Mahoning County Emergency Management Association Interim Director Dennis O’Hara.

“It doesn’t take much to sweep a car away,” O’Hara said.


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