Heavy rainfall causes problems

One homeowner accuses city of failing to maintain storm drain

A rain system described by local officials as a “tremendous weather event” dumped several inches of precipitation in the area on Halloween. It left damage and debris in its wake that citizens and city crews were still dealing with days later.

According to Camas Public Works Director Steve Wall, on Oct. 31 between noon and 7 p.m. approximately 3 to 3.5 inches of precipitation fell.

“More rain than we would typically get obviously caused some havoc throughout the city, from a drainage perspective,” he told the City Council on Nov. 2. “It hit a few areas particularly hard.”

One of those areas was the Forest Home neighborhood where the city maintains two storm drains.

Debbie Hinesley has lived on nearby Northwest Greeley Street for more than 25 years. On Halloween, her basement and garage filled with water and mud. It’s a situation that has never occurred before.

“The streets were a river, flooding basements, storage units, yards and the VEGA gym,” she said. “It took them over four hours to dig all the junk out of the way to let water flow. They pulled out tires, a basketball, along with wood and branches.”

She questions whether the city did everything it could prior to the heavy rains to maintain the storm drain on Ivy Street.

“We live in the Pacific Northwest, and most of the residents have owned homes for years,” she said. “We did not flood because of grates in the roadway filling up, 3 inches of water or clogged street grates. This is literally a huge storm drain specifically designed to handle much more than 3 inches of rain in 24 hours.”

According to Wall, storm drains maintained by the city — as opposed to those that are maintained by homeowners’ associations — are typically checked before winter hits and as storms make their way through the area.

Specifically, he said, the storm drains on 10th Avenue were cleaned in late September and checked again on Oct. 26, when some debris was also removed.

Forest Home wasn’t the only area of the city impacted. Also hit with flooding issues were 37th Avenue and Dahlia Drive; the Hills at Round Lake development, a portion of which is currently under construction; and Larkspur Street in the Columbia Summit development on Prune Hill.

Flooding occurred in yards and streets.

“If you think about Prune Hill, all of the rain landed on top; it’s got to go down the hill,” he said. “As you go down hill, as you get to the bottom is what took the brunt of a lot of the rain that we had.”

City crews’ response began at approximately 2 p.m. Oct. 31. They were out daily though Nov. 3, cleaning up damage and debris throughout the city.

As of Friday, three claims have been filed with the Washington Cities Insurance Authority, the city’s insurer, related to damage that occurred on Oct. 31.

“Unfortunately [the claims process] can take some time, and that’s the hard part,” Wall said. “Talking with the property owners, we want to do what we can but there is a process there that folks sometimes have a hard time understanding — and understandably so. It’s difficult if your home has some damage in it that you are trying to take care of.”

“As staff, we recommend that they’ll probably want to get it cleaned up the best they can so that further damage doesn’t happen in the meantime,” he continued. “But we don’t necessarily provide that assistance and cleanup inside the homes. They would call a restoration company or a contractor to help do that.”

Hinesley said she expects repairs to her home to cost between $10,000 and $15,000. Her insurance won’t cover it because her property is not located within a flood plain. She has already filed a claim with the WCIA, and spoken with an insurance adjuster.

She was planning to put her house on the market soon, and is worried that the damage could impact its resale value.

“I really feel that the city is negligent and had they maintained the drain system this would not happen,” she said. “At the end of the day, they should do the right thing and pay for these damages.”