Saskatchewan

Frequent street flooding posing safety risks, says Regina building owner

When the rain comes down, Regina's Rae Street fills up with water. Now, one woman who has lived on the 3800 block for decades, says the flooding is causing an overflow of concerns.

May Hobbs has lived in the apartment building she owns for decades, and says flooding is getting worse

Vehicles stranded on Rae Street, behind the Golden Mile Shopping Centre, after rain flooded the 3800 block on July 16, 2019. (Submitted by Cloudesley Hobbs)

May Hobbs watched the daily bustle on Rae Street from her third-floor window. 

It was a clear day. People caught buses. Drivers slowed for groups of children at a nearby crosswalk.

She pointed out the street's familiar markings: two manhole covers and two catch basins, both parallel to one another, just below her apartment.

The view changes dramatically when it storms, she said.

The 3800 block of Rae Street quickly fills with water, the catch basins disappear from sight. 

"Sometimes both lids of the manholes float off and go down the street," said Hobbs, who has owned the building she now lives in since 1965.

"People disbelieve me when I say how deep the water is."

The view from Hobb's third-floor window after intense rain on July 16, 2019. Water flowed over sidewalks on both sides and up the front driveway. (Submitted by May Hobbs)

Hobbs said rain has flooded the street six times this year, the most intense being July 16 when 35 millimetres of rain fell over a few hours.

That night Hobbs did what she usually does when it storms: call her son, Cloudesley, to help.

"The water came right up to the edge of the apartment buildings," said Cloudesley, adding he waded through waist-high cold water to clear the nearby catch basin of storm debris.

"This was the first time that I can recall in the history of the buildings we've actually had the danger of the water flowing into the building," he said.

A City of Regina worker outside Hobb's apartment building after rain flooded the street on May 25, 2019. (Submitted by Cloudesley Hobbs)

Concern over safety, accessibility

A spokesperson for the city told CBC Wednesday they were unable to get specifics about this area of Rae Street.

May said that, while it takes only minutes for the street to flood, city crews often take hours to arrive and then several more to properly clear the street.

Buses detour during these times, she said, and those who park behind her building can't access their vehicles because the alley also floods. Drivers who do go through often end up stranded in the water.

Both she and her son are concerned about the danger this poses for residents.

"The apartment building and the buildings around here become like islands," said Cloudesley.

Cloudesley Hobbs and his mother, May, outside the apartment building she owns and manages on Rae Street in Regina. (Daniella Ponticelli/CBC)

May said she's called the city so many times about the flooding, she feels as though the area is being neglected. 

She added that when she last brought up the issue of loose manhole covers, the response was that the lids can't come off.

"But I've seen the city workers walking back with them. One man carrying one. It does look heavy, but he's carrying it," she said. 

According to her son, children have gotten close to uncovered manholes.

"There were four kids that come out with splash toys and everything to go play in the water," he said. 

"I had to run down there into the water to to try and keep them away because it's impossible to tell from the surface where that manhole cover would have been."

Hobbs shows her son, Cloudesley, where storm water damaged the front landscaping of the apartment building she owns and manages on Rae Street. (Daniella Ponticelli/CBC)

Storm water still ending up in sewer system: city

Hobbs and her son said they want to know when the city plans on addressing what they both described as a worsening problem. 

Regina's director of water and waste Pat Wilson held a news conference Monday to discuss surface flooding in the city from weekend rain. 

She said that storm water still ends up in the domestic sewer system — through cracks, manhole covers and even household sump pumps — filling the system further.

"It's not desirable, we want the storm water to go to the creek or to the channels, because we really don't need to treat it," Wilson said.

While not speaking to the manholes on Rae Street, Wilson did comment on why people have observed water spouting up and out of manholes during intense storms.

"That is when the system is just filling up. So it's filled up and actually pushing out, we do see that happen," she said.

Wilson said making improvements to the sewer system is complicated, as changes impact the flow of water to other areas. 

"You can't make those great big improvements, like the third force main that provides a benefit to the whole city, on the domestic system, because that system is integrated," she said. 

Wilson added that catch basins covered by leaves and debris before or during a storm also impact how fast the system clears of storm water.

She said typically it takes six to eight hours for the sewers to clear. 

About the Author

Daniella Ponticelli has worked as a print, broadcast and digital journalist in Manitoba and Saskatchewan since 2012. She joined CBC Saskatchewan in May. Get in touch with Daniella by email at daniella.ponticelli@cbc.ca or on Twitter @Ms_dponticelli.

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