Flooding all too familiar to some Fort Worth neighborhoods

A driver somehow successfully drives through low water in Trinity Park.
A driver somehow successfully drives through low water in Trinity Park. Star-Telegram

A quick-moving thunderstorm dumped heavy rain across Tarrant County on Monday morning, causing brief flooding in an area of Fort Worth that has grown accustomed to raging waters during downpours.

Fort Worth firefighters were called to help stranded motorists at a several central city locations, and at least one person had to be rescued from her car, which was caught in high water on Hulen Street. No injuries were reported.

It’s a scenario that plays out regularly during downpours in older neighborhoods such as Arlington Heights, the near south side and the TCU area.

“It is not that we don’t realize we have these problems. We recognize it,” said Councilman Dennis Shingleton, who represents Arlington Heights and other west Fort Worth areas that are prone to flooding. “We have found ways to mitigate it, to diminish it, and we are continuing to do that, but as far as a final, absolute solution to this problem — I’m not sure that’s available.”

Many neighborhoods that are prone to flooding were in the pathways of natural creek beds. Drainage pipes that are too small to handle the storm water are underneath the houses, making repairs difficult and costly.

The ultimate fix — tearing up neighborhood streets and creating an underground storm-water system to carry the water to the Trinity River — is not feasible, said Greg Simmons, the city’s assistant director of transportation and public works.

A 2007 study of central Arlington Heights found that a solution would cost $50 million to $70 million.

But Fort Worth continues to try to mitigate the problem, Simmons said. For example, in a few weeks the city will start on a $5.1 million project to build a water detention pond at Western and Bryce Avenues and to replace water and sewer mains in the adjacent alleys.

But fixing the problem throughout the city is also out of reach: Fort Worth’s “critical” storm-water needs are between $250 million and $400 million, Simmons said. The total cost of Fort Worth’s storm-water needs is over $1 billion.

“It is all about money,” Simmons said. “And unfortunately, to do more projects we need more revenue, and that would mean increasing the fees. So it is something that has to be put into consideration with everything else going on in the city.”

Water main breaks

On Monday afternoon, two water mains broke several blocks from each other in far east Fort Worth.

The first occurred about 3 p.m. when a 12-inch line broke near the northbound Loop 820 service road near Ramey Avenue. Three businesses lost water. A second break, an 8-inch line, was reported about 4 p.m. in the 6000 block of Prothrow Street, near the southbound lanes of the Loop 820 service road. About 20 residential customers lost water.

The morning downpour likely caused the break, Hilda Zuniga, a water department spokeswoman, said.

“We know when it’s too dry, the ground shifts, and when it’s wet, the same thing happens,” Zuniga said.

Crews were still repairing the breaks late Monday. They expected to have water back on for the residential customers on Prothrow before 11 p.m. but the businesses near Ramey would not have water service restored until Tuesday morning.

If service isn’t restored, a department supervisor will decide early Tuesday whether to connect the businesses to a hydrant for temporary service, she said.

Above normal for year

Monday’s rain was fast and furious, starting between 8:15 and 8:30 a.m. as commuters were headed to work. Shingleton said he measured 1.14 inches during 15 minutes when it was pouring and 2.44 inches in 90 minutes.

The National Weather Service office in Fort Worth issued a flash flood warning in Tarrant and nearby counties.

Some radar estimates showed parts of Tarrant, Denton, Collin, Cooke and Grayson counties with rainfall of 1-2 inches per hour Monday morning.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport had recorded 1.06 inches of rainfall since midnight for a total of 9.42 inches since Jan. 1. That’s 1.71 inches above normal and a vast improvement over last year, when 3.21 inches had fallen in the comparable period.

Firefighters responded to eight high-water calls between 8:38 and 11:56 a.m.

“It sounded more like service calls than true high-water rescues, where we’re just helping people get to dry land from their cars,” Battalion Chief Richard Harrison said. “No dive teams were dispatched.”

Police also assisted stranded motorists on Altamesa Boulevard, Texas 121, the Jacksboro Highway and North Riverside Drive, as well as several other locations, they said.

Forecasters called for a 40 percent chance of rain today but most of the storms should be gone by this evening, according to the weather service.

Rain chances will continue for the rest of the week in North Texas.

Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984

Twitter: @catyhirst

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

Staff writer Monica S. Nagy contributed to this report.

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