Midway Residents Concerned With Current, Future Flooding

A business owner says yesterday's storm does not bode well for a wet El Nino

While the rain is gone, the mess left behind is still a big concern for those in San Diego’s Midway District, which deals with repeated flooding when there’s heavy precipitation.

This week’s September storms brought more than an inch of rain to businesses on Pacific Highway in a short time Tuesday. Business owner Kevin Otsuka described the rainfall as a lake pooling near his work.

In that area, which is known to flood, a pump operated by the city of San Diego is supposed to clear out water. But as the water began to rise, Otsuka started phoning the city to make sure the pump was turned on.

“We actually called the city I know from our phones at least five times,” he said.

Drew Kleis with San Diego’s Stormwater Division told NBC 7 on Wednesday that the pump was turned on before it even started raining. The equipment had recently been replaced and was in good working condition.

The problem, Kleis said, is that when San Diego gets a lot of rain in a short time and there is a high tide, the storm drain’s capacity is limited; the pumps don’t always work.

"They are not designed to capture and pump down huge amounts of volumes of rain that can fall in a very short and intense period of time,” said Kleis.

Otsuka finds that fact surprising and alarming since the region is projected to have a wet winter.

"If they're saying that what they have now is the best it's gonna be, what happens if the El Nino that they're talking about coming comes to fruition here?” he asked. “This whole two blocks is going to be underwater. I'll be out of business along with everybody else here."

Otsuka had to shut down business for almost a week last December when a storm caused $35,000 in damage to his building.

According to the city, it is up to business owners to prepare for flooding, but Otsuka said he has tried.

They have piled three rows of sandbags on top of each other in front of the side doors and front door, but it did not stop water from coming in.

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