Our View: Flooding in our parched city

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Flooding at the base of King Street. (Photo Credit: Scott Collins)
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Were we the only ones shocked to see flooding on lower King Street this week after weeks with no appreciable rain? Lawns are brown, flowers are shriveled and we are being warned of potential wildfires – yet Old Town flooded.

Yes, it poured all day Wednesday, but the flooding occurred several days before that. And yes, we had a full moon on Sunday, along with high tide. But moons are full every month and tides are high every day.

Several aspects of this flooding are troublesome. First, the city has spent significant sums, multiple times, addressing flooding issues along the Potomac River in Old Town. Why is this still an on-going problem?

All bets are off in one-time events like a month of rain followed by a hurricane, such as in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel left Alexandria flooded and without power for days, or when we were hit by Hurricane Irene in 2011 just days after the 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck Virginia. We’ve had no such natural disasters this time, and yet still our city streets flooded, leaving businesses near the waterfront inaccessible and automobiles and, yes, even e-scooters damaged.

This flooding raises concerns that perhaps our embankments and flood mitigation protection has not kept up with the flurry of development along the waterfront in recent years. Projects such as the Hotel Indigo, the renovations to Waterfront Park, the new Boat Club building and Robinson Landing, among others currently under construction, may be having unintended consequences.

Has this rapid redevelopment eroded our existing flood protection? If so, what are the city and developers doing about it? If not, why did this happen? Most importantly, what’s likely to happen when the next significant weather event hits Alexandria?

Alexandria’s waterfront is a treasure for residents and visitors alike. Given the amount of money that’s being poured into economic development there, it behooves the city to make sure our flood defenses are the best they can be.

This week’s unexpected flooding shouldn’t have happened. What’s being done to prevent a repeat?

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