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Flooding won’t go away, but we can lessen devastation: Editorial

Posted 6/26/19

If you were alive and living in the Middletown area 47 years ago this week, you were dealing with one of the worst floods in the area’s history.

The rains started June 22, 1972. According to …

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Flooding won’t go away, but we can lessen devastation: Editorial

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If you were alive and living in the Middletown area 47 years ago this week, you were dealing with one of the worst floods in the area’s history.

The rains started June 22, 1972. According to PennLive, the Susquehanna River crested at 32.8 feet in Harrisburg on June 24 — 15 feet above flood stage.

Hurricane Agnes devastated the Middletown area as well.

And while floods are still a challenge here, especially for the property in the borough’s 100-year flood plain, we haven’t seen anything like Agnes.

Now, 47 years later, Middletown has scheduled a June 27 public meeting to provide information to residents regarding its current flood damage ordinance requirements.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the MCSO, which is part of the Municipal Building complex at 60 W. Emaus St. It is open to all borough residents. However, the subject is of particular interest to anyone who owns property in areas of Middletown designated as being in the 100-year flood plain, Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter told the Press & Journal.

Of special concern: There are 37 properties listed in a Community Assistance Visit report from 2014 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There are potential violations of flooding regulations involving those 37 properties.

Things could be a lot worse for those in the flood plain. Some borough requirements are relatively simple, such as anchoring a shed to prevent it from floating away in case of flooding.

That can be fixed by buying a kit at a home improvement store that costs about $150. Other requirements are potentially more onerous and expensive — such as having to move furnaces and other mechanical systems out of basements, if the basement is below flood plain elevation.

Others who own property in the flood plain do not have to worry about meeting these requirements unless they are planning to do a home renovation or expansion project whose cost exceeds 50 percent of the assessed value of the property.

It’s not possible to stop flooding. Mother Nature will always win. But we continue to learn about causes and ways to lessen the devastation.

The July 2017 storm that caused flooding in our area led to a group of Penn State Harrisburg students undertaking research about flooding from stormwater in Middletown and in the surrounding area — and what can be done to reduce or eliminate it.

Their efforts continue today, and we applaud all that they are doing.

The students have identified possible solutions involving improvements to the stormwater system in the areas of East Roosevelt Avenue, Oak Hill Park, and elsewhere.

The students have put together a computer model that maps the stormwater system in Middletown. The model also shows how the system is affected by stormwater coming into the borough from outside Middletown.

If you can, attend Thursday’s meeting and learn more about what can be done wherever it is you live in this area. Flooding affects us all.

Look at potential problems now, when we are not under water, instead of waiting until a crisis.

Also remember — as we reported in July 2017 after flooding resulted from 4.2 inches of rain falling in an hour — that you don’t have to live in a flood zone to get flood insurance. In fact, it may be easier for you to get affordable flood insurance if you don’t live in a flood zone.

The borough might be a little behind in addressing some of these potential FEMA violations — remember, that report came in 2014. But Klinepeter didn’t start as borough manager until 2016 and didn’t learn about the report until 2018, when a FEMA representative came to see him.

This meeting is a start.

We all hope that we never see anything like Agnes again, but we still must take all the steps we can to be prepared.