In our opinion: We need to invest in an effective storm response system

Fatima Nawabi, Instagram

“The freak thunderstorm that overwhelmed drainage systems in a large swath of Salt Lake City presented an unusual challenge to the city’s infrastructure, as well as to its ability to respond to unexpected calamities.”

The freak thunderstorm that overwhelmed drainage systems in a large swath of Salt Lake City presented an unusual challenge to the city’s infrastructure, as well as to its ability to respond to unexpected calamities. In the latter category, the city has done well to muster quick support for businesses and residents afflicted by flooded basements and other damaged property.

Commendably, Mayor Jackie Biskuspki moved quickly to begin the process of acquiring federal disaster aid while city and county agencies set up an impressive array of services to guide residents through the process of dealing with the effects of the sudden deluge. In the category of infrastructure, we have long known that aging water and sewer lines in parts of the city are a malignant problem that threatens to overwhelm the city’s fiscal abilities to keep up with repairs and replacements. The late July storm that dumped as much as two inches of rain in just a few hours over the east bench may have been meteorologically rare, but still serves as a reminder of the necessity of keeping vital public works systems up to snuff.

While described as a “once-in-a-200-year event,” ferocious rainstorms do occasionally bring levels of precipitation that can quickly inundate drainage systems. In March, a series of storms set that set rainfall records caused severe flooding in several Northern Utah neighborhoods. In September, 2015, Salt Lake City was drenched by another record-setting storm that brought more widespread flooding, though not as severe. It is rare for so much rain to fall as quickly as it did in the recent storm, so expecting facilities to be able to handle such events may not be reasonable. Nevertheless, there are reasons to be concerned that drainage systems in need of updating will fail the next time rain-laden clouds explode over the valley.

Two years ago, the American Society of Civil Engineers conducted the first-ever assessment…

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