In the past few weeks, we have entered uncharted territory as the state and country fight to lessen the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Schools and nonessential businesses have closed, and for the first time in Whitehall's history, we have been ordered to stay home to protect ourselves, our families and those around us.
These types of measures are unique to all of us and have completely shaken the sense of normalcy from our daily lives.
Then on March 20, the region experienced more than 3 inches of rainfall in a 24-hour period. With flooded rivers and streams and an already oversaturated storm-sewer system, the heavy rainfall couldn't be absorbed quickly enough.
With nowhere to go, the storm water entered sewer systems, which in turn backed up into hundreds of basements across our community and throughout the region. The damage was so extensive that Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security sent crews across Franklin County to assess whether it was enough for authorities to declare a disaster.
As we respond to two unprecedented events -- the coronavirus and the flooding -- I understand our community is hurting.
The city is being asked, "Why did this happen?" and "What could the city have done to prevent the flooding?"
The city's stormwater sewer systems are designed to accommodate a high level of rainfall, but their capacity is not infinite. Although additional capacity could be added, a communitywide system improvement would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, would require the city of Columbus to increase its system's capacity and, due to the infrequency of these heavy rainfalls, would not be a good candidate for grant funding.
So what can we do to mitigate this from occurring in the future?
In 2014, the city began targeting various areas in the community through a 15-year, multimillion-dollar EPA-approved stormwater-mitigation project.
Also assisting are new developments in Whitehall, which, while limited, are having a positive impact as they are designed to add stormwater capacity to the system, often helping to increase capacity beyond their own footprint.
But we know this is not enough. Due to the flooding, we have recognized the need to collect more data to assist with potential future projects.
The city is requesting that residents self-report flooding from March 20. Addresses, images and descriptions of flooding and damage can be reported at whitehall-oh.us.
While you're online, I also encourage you to reference the city's COVID-19 service updates and community-resource pages.
We recognize that many in our community are facing financial and other challenges, whether due to job loss, quarantining, changes to child-care situations or otherwise.
The website lists multiple resources, including services for seniors and students, food-bank locations and hours, a list of restaurants still open for carryout and delivery, and grocery-store locations and hours. The website also includes a form to request assistance.
As we all work through the coronavirus crisis together, keep doing your part to flatten the curve so that, in a year from now, we can say we did all we could to help our health-care system save lives.
Doing your part is simple: Stay home, except for essential services; practice social distancing; clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces; practice good hygiene habits; and call before visiting your doctor.
If you are able, think creatively about how you can help limit the impact this crisis is having on those less fortunate in our community.
Again, take care of yourself so we can all take care of each other as a community.
Stay up to date on changes to services and other city information by subscribing to Whitehall e-updates at whitehall-oh.us or finding us on social media.
Kim Maggard is mayor of Whitehall.