Madison County

Berea recovering from second flash flood in three months

Berea firefighter Eric Whittemore squeegeed the bay floor of Station 2 on Tuesday.
Berea firefighter Eric Whittemore squeegeed the bay floor of Station 2 on Tuesday. Greg Kocher | Staff

BEREA — Wednesday was a day to dry out for this southern Madison County city recovering from Tuesday afternoon's deluge of 6 inches of rain in two hours.

"We needed the rain. We didn't need that much at the same time," said Coty Burdine, an employee of the Shell Food Mart off Exit 77 near Interstate 75. Open spaces in the ceiling tiles testified to water damage that had come through the roof.

The torrential rain caused problems elsewhere in the city of 14,000. Berea Mayor Steve Connelly said the city received a number of reports about flooded basements in private homes, but he didn't know an exact figure.

Public buildings were also dealing with the rain's aftermath.

The gym and band room in the Berea Independent Schools — with elementary, middle and high schools on the same campus — had standing water that was cleaned up Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, employees from Servpro, which specializes in cleaning flood damage, were at the school district's central office, where 4 inches of water in the basement had soaked the carpet.

As soon as water began pouring into the basement offices, employees began getting equipment off the floor, said Donna Lovell, director of district-wide services for the school system. On Wednesday morning, people carried out surplus electronic equipment that was scheduled for salvage anyway.

"Our custodial staff has been phenomenal, as well as some of our administrators, teachers, parents and community members all came out last night and jumped right on it," Lovell said.

But the cleanup will mean extra work for custodial staff as the district prepares for the Aug. 11 start of classes, Lovell said.

So much rain fell in a short amount of time that the drainage system couldn't handle the large volume, she said.

Berea Fire Department's Station 2 was also the scene of cleaning. Water and mud poured into a side parking lot and into the station's bays where trucks are parked, said firefighter Charlie Russell.

"We had about 16 inches up on the back wall, and water started coming into the station," he said.

No equipment was damaged, but Russell and firefighter Eric Whittemore spent the morning hosing down the bays.

Larry Childress, a resident of Baldwin Street since 1984, said in the May 2 flood and in Tuesday's storm water funneled into his back yard from subdivisions on higher elevations and from the new Skateboard Park off Jefferson Street that opened in March. Childress said he did not have flooding in his home, but a neighbor's house did have water in the basement.

Childress said a culvert that runs under Baldwin Street needs to be replaced with a bridge so that water can more easily leave the neighborhood.

Mayor Connelly said city engineers will check to make sure nothing is blocking the drainage system. And he will ask the engineers to see whether the piping should be "re-sized" to allow for better drainage.

"It is appearing to us after these two torrential experiences we've had that the piping is not able to handle the volume of water," Connelly said.

The mayor couldn't say with certainty whether the new park and its parking lots were a contributing factor in additional runoff. "Any time you have additional hard surface, there's the potential of extra runoff," Connelly said.

Back at Exit 77, BP station owner Muhannad Haneyah said that business was closed for six hours Tuesday after water got into the underground gas tanks.

"Back in May we had to pump 4,000 gallons of water inside our tanks," he said.

In addition, water rose so quickly in the area Tuesday that out-of-town people who had stopped to fill up couldn't get back to the interstate. "I had people sitting here in the gas station for three or four hours waiting so they could get to the interstate," he said.

And one family was trapped on Ky. 595 when water came up to their van's windows. They were rescued without injury.