Two to five inches of rain, most of it falling within an hour, drenched the Fenton area Tuesday morning.
The city's stormwater system is built -- like most stormwater systems -- to handle a 25-year rain event, but Tuesday's precipitation would qualify as a 50- or 100-year event, Department of Public Works (DPW) Supervisor Dan Czarnecki told city council.
The rain fell so hard and fast that North Leroy Street, and streets around Fenton, became flooded until 1 or 1:30 p.m., he said. Streets that became flooded included Swanee Beach, roads in the industrial park, South Long Lake Road, and Ellen, Third, Fourth and Walnut streets. At an apartment complex off Trealout Drive, water was coming into the buildings.
"It was basically due to the amount of rain," Czarnecki said. "It poured for probably a good hour."
It was such a unique rainfall event that some neighboring DPW employees, from Linden, came by just to see it, and some drivers in Fenton were getting towed after their vehicles couldn't make it through the water, he said. Stormwater pipes were full and couldn't handle the amount of water coming into them.
Once that happens, water goes to the least point of resistance, said Councilman Les Bland, the city's retired DPW director.
Czarnecki said DPW employees tried to help the water go down in that area. However, the parking lot near VG's has a private drainage system.
In addition, the city made no changes in that area that would add water to that side of the street, he said. The catch basin near VG's and McDonald's was filled, but the water was moving, Czarnecki said.
The west side of the stormwater systems along North Leroy Street connects with the east side, and DPW workers popped open a manhole cover to check inside. The 24-inch pipe was so full of water that they could barely see the outside of the top of the pipe.
"The systems were full and that was the situation out in that area," he said.
There also was a swirling area of water in front of Douglas Water Conditioning, 1000 N. Leroy St.
With a typical rain, Fenton's stormwater system handles it, Czarnecki said.
It's not the first time, and it won't be the last, Bland said. Heavy rains happened a number of times while he was DPW director, and people complained about low areas and water that went downhill. There's a 42-inch pipe to remove stormwater, with 24-30 inch pipes feeding into it.
"And for 99 years, you don't need that much," said Councilman Ben Smith.
Czarnecki said North Road Elementary School also had trouble with stormwater flooding on Tuesday, in front of the school.
Bland said the school had trouble with stormwater once that he could remember while he was DPW director, but in back of the building.
"It was coming up to the door of the school," said Councilwoman Pat Lockwood.
In addition, houses on Worchester Drive had flooding up to their front doors for three hours, she said.
Bland said it's against city ordinance to put anything into the street. It blocks stormwater grates and prevents water from draining.
With Tuesday's storm past, Czarnecki said the DPW planned to begin work early Wednesday, to clean up.
Resident Dawn Overmyer said her street, Southwood Drive, hasn't had a street sweeper come through since October 2011. With trees losing their leaves early this year, it's made the situation worse. The tops of the drains along Southwood Drive are filled with leaves and debris, she said, although her husband, Paul Overmyer, cleans the drain in front of their house.