A three-day onslaught of rain last month caused flooding in many areas of Upper Arlington, including in some residents' homes, but city officials said it wasn't because of deteriorated or blocked sewer systems.
According to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, 4.58 inches of rain fell in the Columbus area March 18 through March 20, including 2.89 inches on the final day.
That resulted in more than 150 reports of water in the basements of homes and flooding in five intersections, said Jackie Thiel, public-service director and city engineer.
"Even our Public Service Center (4100 Roberts Road) had flooding throughout the first floor," she said.
Thiel said the city's public works crews were out ahead of the March 20 storm, clearing catch basins and removing debris from storm inlets and ditches, but the three-day rain was too much for the sanitary and storm sewers to handle.
"The city did not find any debris or blockages in our sewer system, but rather an influx of storm water into our system from the heavy rain," she said, adding there is not a system large enough to control "the massive amounts of rain that fell."
Among those affected was Paige Ingledue, who lives on Mountview Road.
She said the basement floors in her split-level house have gotten damp during storms over the three years she's lived there, but nothing like last month.
"I walked downstairs – we have a finished basement – and I stepped onto the carpet and it was completely saturated," Ingledue said. "Me and my husband (Mike) had to pull up the carpet ourselves.
"Then we had exposed asbestos tile. It was really annoying."
Ingledue said she's not disappointed in the city, as she blamed the in-house flooding on an unprecedented rain.
Still, the damage was estimated at $3,000.
"We did not have water damage on our homeowners policy," she said. "Nothing was covered.
"Of course, it comes at a terrible time because both my husband and I are on reduced work" due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Rather than taking issue with the city, Ingledue said she reached out to council members to report the problem and received a quick response explaining the cause of the flooding.
At least two council members had an experience similar to the Ingledues.
Councilmen Brian Close and Jim Lynch both said they had water in their homes.
Lynch said the basement in his Harwitch Road house had nearly a foot of water and damaged a number of photos and work files.
"It just came up through the floor drain," he said. "I've lived in my house 15 years, and this was the first time I've had water in my home."
In November 2014, voters approved an increase of the city's income tax from 2% to 2.5%.
That created approximately $3.5 million in new, annual revenue the city has earmarked for infrastructure upgrades.
Since January 2015, Thiel said, the city has spent $13.6 million in storm sewer and sanitary sewer improvements.
"To decrease the amount of inflow and infiltration getting into our sanitary sewer system, we continue our over $1 million annual investment in our Sustainable Sewer Solutions project, which rehabilitates our sanitary mains and laterals by lining the sewers using trenchless technology," she said.
While the heavy rains last month are not common, Thiel said there are steps residents can take to try to mitigate flooding in the future.
They include checking downspouts to make sure they're not connected to the sanitary sewer, which is prohibited by city code.
"They should drain into the street or yard," she said. "Roof and foundation (or) footer drain connections add excess water to the sewer system."
She also encouraged residents to keep gutters free of debris and to make sure their sump pumps and drainage systems around homes are working properly.
"One way to check for blockages on your home drains is to run water from a hose through them to see if the water is draining properly," Thiel said. "Check the grading around your home to make sure water is directed away from, and not toward, the structure.
"Fill in any low spots in your yard that may allow water to pond."
Although it was too late for the Ingledues, who added flood and sewer backup coverage to their homeowners insurance after March 20, Thiel encouraged residents to check their policies to see if they are covered.
She also advised inspecting sewer lines for tree-root invasion.
"If a sewer backup occurs, proper cleanup procedures must be followed for safety reasons," Thiel said. "Never enter a flooded basement – the risk of electrocution is present.
"Wait for the water to recede."
Storm and sanitary sewer problems in the city can be reported using the UA Click2Fix app or by calling 614-583-5410.