Downpour causes flooding, strains Biloxi's drainage system

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – A Biloxi Public Works crew spent Monday morning pumping water out of a ditch on Seal Avenue.

"They had a ball that was in the mouth of the pipe," said Equipment Operator John Hargrove. "The water got up to the fence up there and we're trying to keep it from going into the apartments over there."

Then, the workers moved to their next job, digging debris out a ditch on Pine Street.  They were trying to clear the ditches and unclog the drains and pipes before more wet weather arrives.

"They got some showers moving in," Hargrove said as he checked the weather radar on his phone.

John Hargrove had to pull a 12-hour shift overnight Saturday, because of the non-stop downpour. About five inches of rain fell within a 48-hour period, causing serious street flooding at Point Cadet.

Over the weekend, just about every street in east Biloxi had standing water.  For instance, at the corner of Maple and 3rd Street, a water mark on a stop sign showed the water came up to about three feet.  City officials blame the problem mainly on Katrina.

"We're still suffering from all the damage that was incurred during the storm," said Biloxi Spokesman Vincent Creel. "There's no telling how much debris are under these roads right now. We would have had reports of homes flooding on Point Cadet had there been homes down there.  There's no doubt about that."

So starting next week, the city will use high-tech equipment to go underground to get an overall picture of the condition of the pipes.

"You're going to see the first of the vacuum trucks that are going to be coming in.  What they're going to be doing is going into these lines. They're going to have equipment with video cameras on it that will also clear the line and inspect the line," said Creel.

But don't expect the drainage problem to be fixed overnight.

"That's going to tell them how much to tear up and replace.  So it's going to be a long haul.  We're looking at work that's going to take years to complete," he said.

The drainage project is part of a $350 million program to repair or replace infrastructure in Katrina surge areas.  The improvements are funded by FEMA.

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