On engineering and the devaluation of 1,000-year weather events.


At Monday’s city council meeting, as the discussion turned to how many dollars per inch it will require to restore Spring Street Hill to viability as Councilman Bob Caesar’s fastest route home, engineers became weathermen.

New Albany council wants review of Spring Street Hill work; $540,000 project receives initial approval, but second opinion requested, by Daniel Suddeath (News, Tribune and Pop Up Generator)

The city hoped to receive aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, as Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz President Jorge Lanz said almost 9 inches of rain fell on Silver Hills between April 19 and May 2 of 2011.

But FEMA denied the city’s request earlier this month, though administration officials declared Monday they will appeal the decision within 60 days. Lanz said the “historic” problems associated with the road were part of FEMA’s decision to deny the request, though he said much their reasoning for the ruling was still “cloudy” …

… Lanz said crews had to dig about 30 feet into the ground before the ravine was discovered, and he added that kind of testing is unusual for such a project.

The drainage installed met city standards, but it’s not feasible to design a system capable of dealing with a 1,000 year storm like April’s rain event was, he continued.

“For this kind of structure, I don’t know what else we could have done,” Lanz said.

If umbrellas were necessary, were they to protect us from rain, or exaggerations? A blog reader delved into the archives:

Indiana Precipitation Records

Driest location ranked by lowest annual average precipitation: English, southern Indiana, 49.72″

Wettest location ranked by highest annual average precipitation: Monroeville, northeast Indiana, 33.74″

Snowiest location ranked by highest annual average snowfall: South Bend, northern Indiana, 76.6″

State precipitation maximum for 24 hours – Princeton, southwest Indiana, 8/6/1905, 10.50″

State precipitation maximum for 1 year – Marengo, southern Indiana, 1890, 97.38″

State snow maximum for 24 hours – Seymour, south-central Indiana, 12/22-23/2004, 29.0″

State snow maximum for 1 season – South Bend, northern Indiana, 1977-1978, 172.0″

It’s hard to believe that nine inches of rain falling in a 13 day period qualifies as a “1,000 year storm” – especially when you consider 10.5 inches fell in 24 hours in 1905 in Princeton, Indiana.

Indeed, and another friend asks: “Didn’t this much rain fall in two days back in 1997?” In the end, it probably doesn’t matter. Caesar wants his handy commute fixed — and that’s not a request.

… Caesar, who is sponsoring the measure, agreed that a second opinion is “imperative” but doesn’t believe it will greatly delay the project to obtain a review.

“I think this could happen in a very short amount of time,” he said.