In the early 1970s, engineers began warning city of Frederick officials that — unless a way was found to control Carroll Creek — the central city would be flooded every five years.
Extensive growth on the west side of the city, especially along the Golden Mile, resulted in formerly open acres being paved over and becoming impervious to rainwater. Each year, the creek was carrying more runoff through town and out to the Monocacy River east of the central city.
After two major floods, first during Hurricane Agnes in 1972 and then the disastrous 1976 flood, city and state officials began looking for solutions. Eventually, in the 1980s, they agreed to build the Carroll Creek flood control project. And this week their prescience was once again validated.
When more than 5 inches of rain fell on the city early Monday, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water once again poured into Baker Park. It is a startling sight to see, our beautiful park looking like a shallow lake.
But the Carroll Creek project — four underground conduits that sit below the scenic downtown waterway — once again worked as planned. Baker Park and Carroll Creek were designed together to protect downtown from flooding.
The huge basin of Baker Park was designed to hold about 580,000 cubic feet of water, but the conduits can each hold 1.4 million cubic feet, according to city engineers. That means almost 10 times as much water was diverted into the conduits as covered the park.
Many basements were soaked and some intersections briefly looked like rivers, but the streets of downtown were safe once again from flooding. Everybody can breathe a sigh of relief.
It is more than a bit worrisome, however, that this was the second such “100-year” storm in a little more than a year. The city was slammed in May 2018 by a similar storm that we then called historic. This week, history repeated itself.
A 100-year storm is something of a misnomer. It does not mean that such a storm can happen only once every 100 years. It means that each year, there is a 1 percent chance of having such a storm.
But still. It was just 14 months ago that we were dealing with another flood.
What’s going on? It should come as no surprise that it is related to climate change. Despite what the denier in chief may say, climate change is real.
The website Science Daily said last year:
“New data show that extreme weather events have become more frequent over the past 36 years, with a significant uptick in floods and other hydrological events compared even with five years ago.”
That report was done by an advisory council to the 27 national science academies in Europe. It warned that leaders and policymakers must do more to improve the adaptability of infrastructure and social systems to a changing climate.
Our local leaders would do well to follow the example of the leaders of the 1970s and 1980s — those visionary builders of the Carroll Creek flood control project — and begin studying what will be needed to protect our city as weather becomes more extreme. There is no prospect that our nation will take the steps needed to combat climate change in the near future. All we can do for now is to get ready for the deluge.