EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Last month, East El Paso saw about 4 inches of rain coming down in about an hour, causing cars to float on what is typically a busy intersection at McRae and Gateway West.
Our viewers took to social media to air their frustrations with how El Paso continues to see damage from flooding, especially during the end of June going into July.
“This has been the worst season since 2006,” said Alan Shubert, vice president of Operations for El Paso Water Utility.
Monsoon 2021 has been a very active one with more than 7 inches of rain so far this season.
“We have had tremendous damage through the Ojo de Agua channel. The High Ridge channels on the Westside are trashed,” Shubert said. “We are battling that project at Sam Snead and Lee Trevino, the Gateway Ponds are completely filled up. We’ve got half a dozen pumps pumping those ponds right now, just trying to keep up with that.”
If it were to stop raining now for the rest of the year, this would rank as the third wettest monsoon with a little more than 7 inches of rain and the fifth wettest year in total with a little more than 8 inches of rain.
“The rainfall rates have been very high,” said Anthony Brown, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “There are parts of the city that have seen upwards of 6 inches of rain in a very short amount of time and our soils aren’t made for that.”
The big question: Have the flood prevention projects completed by the El Paso Water Utility actually worked?
“The short answer is, the projects that we’ve built have worked really well, but the recent flooding has just reminded us how much work we have left to do,” Shubert said. “We have more left to do than we have done, that’s just a simple function of funding.”
Shubert said that those who are skeptical and not very happy with the Water Utility right now should consider that flooding will always happen in the city but that the city is working to reduce the damage as much as possible.
“Well, I would say, look over my shoulder and see the people that are working diligently to try to clean up the damage from the floods and the recent flooding that we have had,” he said. “We have had damage all over town and that’s a function of where El Paso is built. We will always have flooding. We will always be fighting flood damage in this community.”
With floating cars on the Gateway in East El Paso to flood damage in several neighborhoods, this year’s flood is being compared to that of 2006, but with some key differences.
“The key differences with the 2006 flood are that this year we received more rain for the entire period but in 2006, they received it in a concentrated period of time,” said Brown. “In 2006, we saw almost 7 inches of rain in an 11-day period, whereas in 2021, we received a little more than that in the entire month and a half. “
Shubert had some comparisons of his own.
“This year has been not as bad as 2006. My point of comparison — had the Saipan neighborhood still been there, they would have flooded. That is not there anymore. Had the Gateway Ponds not been there, it would have flooded multiple times this year. So we would have experienced some of the same things that we experienced in 2006, but the projects we have build have worked,” he said.
Shubert said there is one important thing to note.
El Paso is a young city in the sense that our Storm Water Utility wasn’t created until 2008 by City Council, which means we have only seen about 15 years’ worth of infrastructure.
Shubert urges the public to keep trash off the streets since this clogs the drains and keeps them from working properly during heavy rain events and could lead to unnecessary flooding.