Flash Floods in Rehoboth Beach August 25-26 (UPDATED August 31, 2012)

Outfall not cleared before Aug. 25 storm

Permanent extensions could be put on in October

By Ryan Mavity | Aug 31, 2012
Cape Gazette, August 31, 2012
Photo by: Ryan Mavity The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers excavator lumbers along Rehoboth Beach Aug. 29. The excavator has been on call all summer to clear clogged stormwater outfall pipes during daytime low tides. However, the pipes were not cleared out before the Aug. 25 thunderstorm that flooded portions of downtown.

Rehoboth Beach — Stormwater outfall pipes on Rehoboth Beach were apparently clogged with sand and not cleaned before the Aug. 25 thunderstorms that flooded downtown streets.

Steve Rochette, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, said the corps did not clear several outfall pipes along the beach because of safety concerns. Rochette said the corps was asked Aug. 1 not to use excavators on the beach on weekends after complaints from tourists and safety concerns about keeping beachgoers away from the work areas.

Commissioner Stan Mills said officials from the city, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the army corps met and recognized that it was difficult to clear the pipes on crowded weekend beach days. Mills said officials agreed that if there was no threat of a weather event, corps crews could skip weekend cleanouts.

David Small, deputy secretary of Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said the weather forecast did not predict a storm as severe as the one that dumped at least 5 inches of rain in Rehoboth Aug. 25. The department has a 35 percent cost share in the beach replenishment project, with the remaining 65 percent paid by the corps.

Rochette said as the weather worsened, the corps tried a night cleanout at 9:24 p.m., but faced with intense lightning and high winds, conditions were too dangerous to send cleanup crews on the beach.

Mayor Sam Cooper said the last cleaning of the pipes was the Friday before the storm. The most severe problem occurred at the Delaware Avenue pipe.

“It’s clear to me that the pipe was stopped up. Even if the drainage system had not been large enough, it (the water) would have gone down. There would not still have been puddles in the street at 2 a.m,” he said.

Mills said the Aug. 25 storm was an extraordinary weather event. He also said the water on Delaware, Wilmington and Brooklyn avenues did not go down, leading him to believe the outfall pipes were clogged. The storm drains from those three streets feed into one large outfall, which empties into the ocean at Delaware Avenue. He said sand in the pipe eventually  broke loose about 4:30 a.m., and the water level quickly went down, possibly helped by the high tide at 3:18 a.m.

Small said he was not sure anyone will definitively know if the clogged outfalls caused the flooding in Rehoboth; the corps is looking into it.

Pipes a problem all summer

The stormwater outfall pipes in Rehoboth have been a concern all summer. During February’s beach replenishment, too much sand was pumped onto the beach, clogging the outfall pipes at Laurel Street and Delaware, Rehoboth, Maryland and Virginia avenues.

The outfall pipes were temporarily extended, but wave action knocked the extensions out of place. Corps officials said sand eroded enough near the outfall pipes at Maryland and Virginia avenues so extensions were no longer needed, but outfall pipes at Laurel Street and Delaware and Rehoboth avenues have repeatedly been cleaned out during daytime low tides.

Cooper said littoral drift – a natural flow of sand parallel to the shoreline - moves sand from south to north off Rehoboth Beach. The north end of the beach, near the Henlopen Hotel, eroded faster after the 2005 beach replenishment. Cooper said because the north end eroded badly, the corps decided to pump more sand at the south end, hoping it would gradually feed the north end.

What the corps failed to take into account, Cooper said, were the stormwater outfalls.

Work to extend pipes set for October

Rochette said the beach has not eroded as it typically does as a result of storms and wave action. He said in October, the corps plans to put a permanent outfall extension at Delaware Avenue, with options for Rehoboth Avenue and Laurel Street. Rochette said the project would require closing down large areas of Rehoboth Beach; construction is being delayed until October to avoid restricting use of the beach during the summer, he said.

Until then, cleaning of the pipes will continue. Cooper said the pipes at Rehoboth Avenue and Laurel Street remained open during the storm and did not appear to have clogged.

Asked whether the corps will have to pay reparations for property damaged by the storm, Rochette said, “At this point, we’re still collecting details on the storm, flooding and the outfall pipes.”

Cooper said, “If they felt responsible, do they even have any way to compensate people or deal with it? We estimate there were 68 cars. Most of them were totally damaged. Insurance companies are set up to evaluate claims, but I’m not sure the Army Corps of Engineers is.”

Mills said the corps has been great to work with and has been actively assisting the city in analyzing the causes of the flooding.

"This was a storm beyond anyone's predictions," Cooper said. "But we are working together with the state and the army corps to resolve the issue with these three outfalls."

Downpour floods Rehoboth Beach

Cape Gazette, August 28, 2012

Cars flooded in Brighton Suites parking garage

By Ryan Mavity, Cape Gazette, August 28

Photo by: Ryan Mavity Puddles of water remain in the underground parking garage at Brighton Suites Hotel in Rehoboth Beach. The garage flooded during an Aug. 25 storm, causing damage to nearly 30 cars.

Rehoboth Beach took a licking from a severe storm this weekend, but the city keeps on ticking.

Flooding on Rehoboth and Wilmington avenues damaged cars over the Aug. 25-26 weekend, but businesses were up and running Aug. 27, and visitors were crowding the beaches.

Crews from the city’s Public Works Department were the city’s first line in the clean up. Director Mel Craig said crews have been cleaning sand and debris out of catch basins at the foot showers on the Boardwalk, and dirt and sand that had accumulated near the Delaware Avenue restrooms were removed.

Craig said crews have not cleaned up private property, such as underground hotel parking garages or basements. He said crews have been picking up trash – primarily wet cardboard  – that businesses left out for collection.

Serious flooding occurred at Brighton Suites Hotel on Wilmington Avenue.

John Kleitz, general manager, said the hotel’s underground parking garage flooded within 20 minutes after the storm began. He said water from Wilmiington Avenue rushed into the garage, flooding it.

Close to 30 cars were pulled out of the hotel’s underground parking garage, and they will probably be totaled because of flood damage, Kleitz said. The hotel also lost equipment stored in the garage, such as snowblowers, powerwashers, tables and a dance floor, Kleitz said.

He said he has no cost estimate yet as to the extent of the damage. On Monday, puddles of water could still be seen in the garage, although parking is once again possible. Once the water recedes completely, Kleitz said, the garage will be degreased and powerwashed. He said the hotel is focused on getting ready for Labor Day weekend, which is sold out.

Other hotels were luckier.

Michael Lubben, general manager at Atlantic Sands Hotel, said the hotel sustained no real damage, although water flooded a café and spa on the first floor, leaking into the hallway. He said the water washed out the next day. Lubben said the underground parking garage did not flood.

Mayor Sam Cooper said much of the flooding on Delaware, Wilmington and Brooklyn avenues was caused by backed up stormwater outfall pipes, which carry stormwater from the streets into the ocean.

The stormwater outfall pipes have been an ongoing issue since a major beach replenishment project was completed in February. The pipes are maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has been clearing the outfalls, using an excavator as needed.

Originally, the plan called for temporary extensions to be placed on the pipes, but corps officials said wave action knocked the extensions out of place. After sand had eroded at Virginia and Maryland avenues, the plan was downsized to put extensions only at Laurel Street and Rehoboth and Delaware avenues. However, the corps again revised the plan to allow sand filling the pipes to erode naturally. Until it does, the pipes are to be cleaned on an as-needed basis.

Cooper said he would be meeting with corps officials to discuss the situation.

Steve Rochette, spokesman for the army corps, said the corps has a team on site gathering information.

"We plan to continue to clear the outfall pipes until we are able to fully close the beach to extend their outfall pipes. The city has asked that we wait until October to do so," he said.

Of the storm damage, Rochette said it was a severe flash flooding event the stormwater outfalls were not capable of handling, citing heavy rain and flooding from the same series of storms in Maryland and New Jersey.



WBOC-TV August 27 and 28

Rehoboth Beach Says Flooding Could Have Been Mitigated

Posted: Aug 27, 2012 10:27 PM EDT Updated: Aug 28, 2012 7:40 AM EDT

By Angelica Spanos

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del.- Rehoboth Beach officials said the city's outfall storm drains clogged this weekend, causing water to stick around longer than it should have. 

Wilmington Avenue looked like a lake on Saturday after about five hours of rain fell on Rehoboth Beach and other parts of Sussex County.  Businesses used sandbags to help keep out the water, and even with today's light rain, water was sitting on the city's storm drain. 

"We had some water flowing into our doors, about 6 inches up to the wall here," Chris Jacona said, pointing the front door of his sandwich shop. It was closed Saturday because of the high-standing water. 

"I believe the outfalls weren't fully functional, they weren't cleared out and which allowed for the storm drains to back up," Jacona said. "And you could just tell if it wasn't clogged, it would have drained fine." 

Rehoboth Beach Mayor Sam Cooper said that the storm drains that collect water, take it through pipes under the boardwalk, under the dunes, and out to the ocean, were clogged.

"We had a particularly bad situation on Delaware, Wilmington, and Brooklyn avenues, where the storm drain that flows down into the ocean, we're pretty sure it was blocked with sand after recent renourishment project," Cooper said.

The Army Corps of Engineers handles the pipes because the drain to the ocean.  It told WBOC it has been watching the sand and the drain pipes all summer, but has throttled back as of late due to the busy beach season. 

The Army Corps acknowledges the outfalls were clogged, but officials said those drains may not have been big enough to handle the deluge of rain, anyway. 

In October, the Army Corps said it will add an extension to the outfall pipe. Cooper said the city is talking with the Army Corps to see if any of the losses from the weekend can be recouped. 


Cape Gazette August 26, 2012

The National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J., has extended a flash flood warning until 2 p.m, Sunday, August 26. As of 7:42 a.m., NWS Doppler radar estimates and rain gauge reports indicate very heavy rain from thunderstorms in Eastern Sussex County reached nearly 10 inches and flash flooding is still occurring.  Many roadways are flooded, so caution is encouraged.  For more information go to www.weather.gov.

Heavy rain Aug. 25-26 flooded the Cape Region, including the majority of downtown Rehoboth Beach. Reports show hotel basements, parking garages and elevator shafts flooded, especially those on the south side of Wilmington Avenue.

Mayor Sam Cooper said the water around town receded around 4:30 a.m. He said the flooding damaged a lot of private property, but not city property. Cooper said two places with the most substantial flooding were at Funland and Brighton Suites’ underground parking garage.

Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks said 25 to 30 cars stuck in the flooded Brighton Suites lot had to be towed out. He said no injuries were reported as a result of the weather. Banks said the water began receding around 2 a.m. before breaking at 4:30 a.m.

Cooper said he is meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get an idea of the extent of the damage and how they plan to respond. He said much of the flooding on Delaware, Wilmington and Brooklyn avenues was caused by backed up stormwater outfall pipes.

Cooper said Rehoboth Avenue also had some flooding but it appears no significant damage. Some flooding in the area of Martins Lawn - the area behind Rehoboth Avenue next to the Cape Henlopen Senior Center - was caused by  cardboard that had washed out of Dos Locos’ basement getting lodged into a storm drain, Cooper said. Once the cardboard was cleared, he said, the water went down.

Banks said he, Cooper and other officials will be going door-to-door to businesses to assess the damage. He said the assessments, particularly at a place like Brighton Suites where there were a lot of cars, could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Banks said to his knowledge, traffic throughout the city is moving as normal.

As far as how much rain the city got, Cooper said his rain gauge showed he had received five inches before he went to bed after midnight. A second storm overnight did not bring as much, he said, with only an additional three-quarters inch.

A parking garage is flooded at Brighton Suites on Wilmington Avenue. (Photo by: Elliot MacGuire)
Strong thunderstorms soaked Rehoboth Beach. (Photo by: Autumn Garvey)
An auto is nearly submerged near Funland on Delaware Avenue in Rehoboth Beach. (Photo by: Autumn Garvey)
Flooding in Rehoboth made getting photos a challenge during strong thunderstorms. (Photo by: Autumn Garvey)