The Father’s Day Flood has often been called a once-in-a-millenium storm. Six inches of rain fell in the Keweenaw in only a couple of hours, overwhelming local drainage and eventually washing away critical infrastructure. Meteorologist Matthew Zika from the National Weather Service says the designation is only an average.
Houghton County Emergency Measures Director Chris Van Arsdale says that many of the repairs that are still ongoing will help bolster the system’s ability to handle heavy runoff should the worst happen again.
The amount of fortifications does have a limit though. Houghton City Manager Eric Waara says that federal and state guidelines dictate the contingencies that are put in place. That could be for once-in-twenty-years events or maybe once-in-100-years depending on what is being replaced. Due to cost, it is never one-in-1,000 due to the fact that infrastructure needs to be rebuilt well before that time horizon and the price exceeds the benefit a vast majority of the time.
Van Arsdale says residents have a role to play too. He discusses the culverts that failed between Lake Linden and Ripley. Many of those were plugged, sometimes as a result of illegal trash dumping. That had significant consequences for the area. Van Arsdale asks that everyone remain vigilant and keep drainage clear of obstructions in case the rains come again.