New drainage system handled torrential downpour

More than 4½ inches of rain fell in Biloxi Wednesday, which would have been catastrophic on the muddy streets of east Biloxi a year ago, but city leaders say there were no major drainage issues in the new drainage system under 55 miles of paved streets north of the CSX Railway.

Keesler Air Force Base reports that 4.69 inches of rain fell from midnight Tuesday to midnight Wednesday, with the bulk of it – 2.8 inches – falling during a torrential downpour between noon and 2 p.m.

“The yardstick we use here at Keesler for ‘significant’ rainfall, and when we start to see the water overcoming our drainage systems, is three inches in three hours,” said Col. Lane Burnett of the 81st Training Wing at Keesler.

Motorists in all parts of Biloxi, especially on busy thoroughfares such as U.S. 90 and Pass Road, experienced ponding water during the height of the thunderstorm, which prompted a flash flood watch.

The good news is that the Hemphill Construction’s final heavy digging on Howard Avenue over the past several weeks – installing a huge sewer line 12 to 15 feet below the street – is complete, and asphalt is ready to be applied in the final stretch between Seal Avenue and Hopkins Boulevard.

And just a year ago, such a downpour would have been devastating in east Biloxi. In the past, contractors employed as many as a half-dozen pumps to remove water from dirt roads where the new drainage system was being constructed.

“It was a nightmare for sure,” said Councilmember Felix Gines, who over the months had towed vehicles stuck in the muddy streets after a downpour. “We certainly have come a long way, but we all still need to see the final layers of asphalt put on many streets, and we still want to see the other finishing work done. We are far from being complete.”

In fact, in the north contract, where the city is pressuring contractor Oscar Renda to wrap up work on reinstalling fences, driveways and landscaping, only low-lying areas that typically flood in torrential downpours were an issue Wednesday.

“We had the same trouble spots as always, on Benachi at Division, where a small bridge runs over a huge drainage canal,” Jennifer Matranga of Oscar Renda said. “Water eclipsed the drainage canal and caused flooding near the business south of the little bridge. There also was some water at the curb on Nichols south of Murray, but there was also a foot of water south of the tracks.

“We’re looking at an issue on Huff Alley, but, by and large, the drainage system performed as it was designed and built to perform,” Matranga said. “The thing is, as we’ve said before, Biloxi is on a peninsula with many low-lying areas. No matter how large and efficient a drainage system you have, and we have a good one in east Biloxi, you’re going to see street flooding and ponding in a heavy rainfall. In some cases, the water has no place to go because we’re at sea level, but it will drain.”
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Biloxi Shuckers: 63 days and counting

Garrett Greene, the voice of the Biloxi Shuckers, dropped by the City Desk podcast today to talk about the upcoming season for Biloxi’s Double-A baseball team. To listen to the 12-minute program, click here.

News & notes: Clydesdales revisited, traffic and Mardi Gras

Clydesdales revisited: There’s a new video out today about the Budweiser Clydesdales visit to downtown Biloxi last week. See the five-minute clip on the city’s Facebook page by clicking here. See it on the city’s YouTube channel by clicking here.

Traffic: The city’s Engineering Department has the latest information on how street work is impacting traffic in the daily Traffic Update. To see today’s report, click here.

Mardi Gras: The city’s newly published lineup of Mardi Gras parades and other events is available for your perusal. To see the lineup, complete with parade maps and other info, click here.