‘We dodged a bullet’; Washington City’s newly redesigned Main Street passes first test of heavy rainfall

ST. GEORGE — Two years ago, residents on Main Street in Washington City found their homes flooded by stormwater dropped by heavy monsoonal rains. This year, the rain fell and the floods came Sunday night, causing chaos in may parts of Washington County, but little to no flooding was reported on Main Street.

The recently rebuilt and reopened Main Street in Washington City between the I-15 underpass and Telegraph Street. City officials credit the redesign of the street with preventing potential flooding in the wake of a heavy rainstorm, Washington City, Utah, Aug. 25, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

What was different this time? Washington City had just reopened on Friday a redesigned Main Street primarily focused on flood control. But while city officials had faith in the rebuilt road’s ability to handle any new flood events, they weren’t expecting a real-world test so soon.

“We opened (the road) up Friday, and by Sunday we had the rain,” Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson said.

St. George took the brunt of the damage and mayhem caused by Sunday night’s heavy rainfall, and Neilson told St. George News he believed Main Street would have also experienced severe flooding if not for the redesign.

“We’re excited we were able to control the flooding,” Neilson said. “It worked way above our expectations. … We really dodged a bullet.”

Major flood events hit homes on Main Street between Telegraph Street and the Interstate 15 underpass in July of 2018 and then again in August. Multiple homes flooded, and a mess of silt and debris was left for residents and city workers to clean up. The street at the time was a disaster zone.

Washington City’s Main Street following a heavy monsoonal rain storms in 2018 and 2020. Top photo shows the aftermath of flooding in July 2018. The bottom photo show the rebuilt Main Street two days after a heavy rain storm that hit the area Aug. 23, 2020. The lack of any signs of flooding is credited to the flood control measures built into the redesigned Main Street, Washington City, Utah, Aug. 25, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

This time around, there are little to no signs of flooding on Main Street in the wake of Sunday’s rainfall. There are some silt trails here and there on the road and some evidence of water getting into some yards can be seen, but it’s nothing to the degree it reached two years ago.

About the only major sign of water was a small pond that formed in the parking lot of the old Nisson supermarket building on the corner of Main Street and Telegraph Street.

Main Street resident Gary Boothroyd said the street “really worked out well.”

“Better than I thought,” he said, adding that while there was a little flooding in his front yard, no water made it around to the backyard as it usually had.

Boothroyd also complimented the new look of the street, though he said he is worried someone may end up crashing in the street’s new median at some time in the future.

Part of Main Street’s new design has the street dip in the center where the median is lined with white rocks and drainage grills that dip below street level.

Incorporated into the Main Street redesign is also a four-tiered drainage system. If the first tier is unable to handle the amount of water coming through, then it goes to the second drainage system and so on as needed.

Thunderstorm wreaks havoc in St. George, Utah, Aug. 23, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Sam LeBaron, St. George News

Another Main Street resident told St. George News he and his family were happy with the results of the redesigned road and said a few of their neighbors were as well – especially since their homes weren’t underwater this time.

Neilson said the city is very pleased with how it worked out for their residents, adding that some people have even called the city government and thanked them for the redesigned the road.

Work on rebuilding Main Street started in August 2018 with a push to have it finished before the 2020 monsoon season began.

The Main Street flood control project is estimated to have cost the city $5 million.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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