City investigates Folsom St. flooding

October 20, 2009 5:29:54 PM PDT
Winter has not even started and local residents are already seeing businesses damaged by flooding. On Monday, a surprise deluge soaked the Bay Area and triggered flooding where it was not expected.

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It may be a couple of days before all the clean-up is finished. Professional cleaning crews hired by the city worked all day Tuesday to mop up, dry out and sanitize. On Monday afternoon, the businesses and apartments on Folsom between 17th and 18th were flooded, in some cases up to three feet, when sewer drains backed up.

RAW VIDEO: Cell phone video of flooding at 17th and Folsom

The city is now trying to find out how and why the mess happened. On Tuesday, the city put a camera into the Folsom sewer pipes to check for clogging or damage. city officials say God is to blame for the flooding. They say too much rain fell too fast all in the same place, two-thirds of an inch in 20 minutes.

"That much rain coming down at that period of time... Our system is just not designed to capture and remove that much rain from any location in San Francisco," PUC General Manager Ed Harrington said.

Harrington explained that not every part of the city got that much rain, and that block of Folsom is a low-lying area, a former creek bed. However, the question remained, if the extraordinary downpour was to blame, why has it flooded there before?

"Three or four years ago actually, water came up out of the center sewer right here at 18th and Folsom and it just backed right in. It was like a river flowing into the business. It went all the way to the back," recalled Linda Gonzalez who owns nearby Hilde-Brand Furniture.

Kevin Thompson told ABC7, "This was not supposed to happen again."

Thompson manages an artists' studio where some work was damaged. He watched the city recently put in new pipes and a pump station nearby.

"Well, I would like to know," he said. "Do I have to worry every time it rains?"

"They shouldn't," Harrington said. "Last week if you recall, we had a big storm last week and it didn't flood."

Harrington says they just upgraded the pipes and installed a pump station one block away to prevent flooding on Shotwell.

"The place that we actually spent the money, those blocks, they didn't flood. So now, maybe we have to go another block over and fix that too. And, if that's what it ends up being, we'd be happy to do that," he said.

The city says in addition to the underground pipes in the area, they have 7x6-foot water storage boxes that run underground along each block. Even those were not enough to capture the water that came down so quickly on Monday afternoon. The city is footing the bill for the cleaning service that worked in the area on Tuesday, but it looks like individuals will have to pay any damages beyond that on their own.

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