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Washington DC Begins Recovery from Flooding


By Dan Hounsell Emergency Preparedness
flooding at night

Thunderstorms can take a heavy toll on facilities and communities when they drench widespread areas with heavy rainfall that results in potentially destructive flooding. Building owners and managers can take a range of steps designed to protect facilities from potential flooding, but in the end, water goes where it wants, and managers are left to oversee cleanup and recovery.

All of these challenges are magnified when the threat occurs to some of the oldest and most revered buildings in the nation.

The Washington, D.C., area on Monday was deluged with heavy rain, which turned streets into rivers and led to closed roads and stranded drivers, according to Cnet. The flooding was deep in the streets outside the National Archives building, which had to close. The site's official Twitter account said the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights and other valuable records stored there were not in danger.

The weather led to some frightening images of water flooding elevators, Metro stations and parking lots. The White House didn't go untouched. Several journalists posted photos of water leaking into the press space in the White House basement.

The situated highlighted the way that urbanized land amplifies flooding, according to Forbes. Typically, the focus is on rainfall rates and how fast the system was moving in the aftermath of a flood. But one of the most important aspects of urban flooding is the presence of impervious surfaces, including roadways and parking lots.

“Most of us intuitively grasp that intense rainfall interacts with increases in impervious surfaces such as roads, sidewalks, parking lots and rooftops to amplify the volume and speed of storm runoff, says Brian Bledsoe, director of the Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems at the University of Georgia and a professor of civil and environmental engineering.  “We are less inclined to think about where the water goes from there — how flood mitigation measures like ponds and detention basins can become less effective or fail if not properly maintained.”

Dan Hounsell is editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

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