Commuters at the Cleveland Park Metro station weren’t the only ones who encountered flooding during the June 21st storm.
Ken Sands was on his bike during the deluge, trying to travel home to Forest Hills. The bike and pedestrian path along Beach Drive, he tells me, was manageable. Then he turned onto Broad Branch Road.
About a year ago, a sign and lights were installed on the road to warn drivers and cyclists of flooding ahead, but Sands says he saw no flashing lights.
(Other flood-prone areas are closely monitored with cameras, but Broad Branch Road is not. I spoke to Homeland Security about this last year.)
Sands found cars stopping and turning around. He continued on, walking his bike, and found Soapstone Creek flowing across the road. Sands estimates it was 50 feet to the other side of the flow, and though it was difficult to tell just how deep it was, Sands thought it might have been a foot deep. Sands turned around and biked to the Peirce Mill parking lot, where his son picked him up.
What Sands experienced is not unusual for big storm events. A culvert channels Soapstone Creek under Broad Branch Road. But even though DC Water recently cleared the Soapstone culvert of debris, it is too small to accommodate all the water rushing into this small creek from a watershed of 516 acres, 43 percent of which is covered with impervious surfaces such as rooftops and pavement.
The bridge had to be reconstructed a few years ago due to the stress of too much water rushing through the too-small passageway.
And there are again signs of road bed is being undermined away by such storms.
There are no instant fixes. Some elements of the long-planned Broad Branch Road reconstruction would mitigate stormwater erosion. And we, the homeowners, developers, landlords and businesses of DC can help slow the stormwater’s flow to our creeks and streams. The DC Department of Energy and the Environment offers rebates through RiverSmart Homes to homeowners installing rain gardens and barrels, and rewards building owners for stormwater mitigation efforts.
To stay safe, stay away from Broad Branch Road during storms. And DDOT should make sure the warning lights for a flooding roadway are working.