Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Deluge floods many Key West streets
No problems reported offshore or in Middle and Upper Keys

Island House maintenance manager Billy Ewald stood in the middle of White Street Monday morning trying to keep motorists from driving toward the Eaton Street intersection.

"It's at about 3 to 4 feet right now," Ewald said at 11:45 a.m. "Four cars were stalled earlier."

The city of Key West had not shut down the intersection, but Ewald was trying to keep the wakes created by passing trucks from swamping the guesthouse and other nearby properties. Most people were turning around, creating minor traffic jams whenever more than two cars approached the intersection.

"Some of these people need a lesson on the three-point turn," he said while yelling at motorists to keep away.

It was the same story in other parts of Key West Monday as steady rainfall turned low-lying areas into ponds, creating nightmares for drivers and a carnival atmosphere on Lower Duval Street, where tourists splashed through knee-deep water.

Water began ponding at Front and Duval streets early in the day. One group of tourists decided to swim across Front Street, where multiple, parked scooters were swamped by standing water, leaking oil and gasoline.

Julie Phaneuf, manager of Crazy Shirts at Greene and Duval streets, stood at her doorstep watching passing motorists throw their wake into businesses. Many store employees were using squeegees to keep the water out with every passing vehicle.

Passing tourists draped in ponchos used the store awning for cover from the rain.

"Luckily the water hasn't gotten to my store yet," Phaneuf said. "Last time, people were kayaking down the street."

Between 3 inches and 5 inches of rain fell in the Lower Keys, with 3.18 inches falling at Key West International Airport, said National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Albanese.

A flood advisory, which means forecasters expect significant standing water on roadways and parking lots, was in effect for Key West from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Albanese said.

"It doesn't take much to cause flooding in Key West," he said. "If it rains heavy for an hour, it looks like it rained 10 inches."

The heaviest rains fell in the Lower Keys. Two to 3 inches fell in the Upper Keys. Parts of the Middle Keys got very little to as much as 3 inches in the easternmost areas, Albanese said.

Monday should be the wettest day of the week for the Keys, as forecasters expected a 40 percent chance of rain for today and rain clouds tapering off throughout the week, Albanese said.

There were no major flooding or other weather-related incidents reported outside of Key West, said Monroe County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Deputy Becky Herrin.

Key West firefighters assisted in removing one stalled and abandoned car on Front Street, but responded to no major traffic accidents or calls for assistance, said Fire Marshal Marcus Del Valle. The inside lanes of North Roosevelt Boulevard were flooded for most of the day from the Triangle intersection to the Key West fire and police headquarters, Del Valle said. Key West police helped remove one stalled car at the Triangle, but reported no major incidents or injuries in the city, said spokeswoman Alyson Crean.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Gary Tomasulo, the deputy sector commander for the Keys, reported no search and rescue incidents Monday throughout the Keys.

"Sometimes with weather this poor we'll actually have fewer cases because people don't go out," Tomasulo said. "That may have been the case today."



Key West will conduct the last in a series of community meetings on its Stormwater Master Plan at 6 tonight in the cafeteria at Poinciana School.

New Town, north Stock Island and Old Town residents can hear about the city's master plan and help project managers better understand the community's needs and issues. The plan is expected to be a critical planning document for the city for the next decade.

Recent stormwater projects in Old Town are expected to help problem areas quickly recover from standing water, said Utilities Director Jay Gewin.

"When you have storms like [Monday] morning, when it rains 3 inches in a matter of hours, the storm drain systems can't always keep up, but the systems we've installed helped the island recover a lot faster," Gewin said. "There's going to be areas suffering from standing water, but those areas were dry a relatively short time later after such a heavy rainfall."

Residents are invited to share their knowledge of local flooding areas. The city says it wants to ensure such problem areas are included in the plan so they can be corrected.

"Everyone is welcome to come share their concerns in their own neighborhoods," Gewin said.

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