Advertisement
  1. News

Some Largo residents complain about chronic flooding

Chris Girard, 57, uses a measuring tape to assess the depth of a bank as it relates to the depth of the water in a storm drainage ditch near the low-lying duplex where he lives on a flood-prone street.
Chris Girard, 57, uses a measuring tape to assess the depth of a bank as it relates to the depth of the water in a storm drainage ditch near the low-lying duplex where he lives on a flood-prone street.
Published Aug. 16, 2013

LARGO

When it starts raining hard, Chris Girard knows the drainage ditch next to his home will be filling up. If it keeps raining hard, he knows it's time to start worrying. His duplex has flooded repeatedly during the 35 years he has lived in a low-lying area south of East Bay Drive and west of Belcher Road.

"If I flood again this year, I'm planning to sue," said the frustrated 57-year-old. "One time they told me it was a one-in-100-year flood, and I said, 'I must be 800 years old then.' "

Girard's home was the only building in Largo that flooded during three days of heavy rain in early July, city officials said. But there was significant street flooding in his neighborhood and other spots, with TV news reports showing footage of Largo residents wading through thigh-deep water.

With Florida's rainy season continuing and the busiest part of hurricane season upon us, many of these residents fear another round of flooding the next time Largo gets heavy rain. No one likes the sight of floodwater rising up a driveway toward the front door.

Some, like Girard, complain that drainage ditches aren't being cleaned out, making their neighborhoods more prone to flooding. Officials with Largo and Pinellas County say they don't have the resources to clean out every ditch routinely, but they do the best they can.

However, officials say flooding in and around Largo and other flat places in Pinellas County can be unpredictable for a variety of reasons.

"It's simple hydraulics. Gravity is what moves water. But in Largo, the majority of the east side of town is within 10 feet of sea level. There are fewer elevation changes," said public works director Brian Usher. "Any serious level of rainfall can lead to the water accumulating much more quickly than it would in other places."

Largo's stormwater eventually drains into either Old Tampa Bay or the Intracoastal Waterway, depending on which side of town the rain is falling on. High tides in those bodies of water can slow down drainage. Also, high tides in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico can come hours apart, affecting drainage differently on opposite sides of town.

According to Usher, Largo had street flooding in the days just before July 4 because unusually heavy rain was falling on ground that was already saturated.

That led to several complaints:

• Christopher McCauley, who lives off Ulmerton Road near 66th Street, said his lot was flooding because a ditch beside his property was blocked by shrubs. The city said a nearby homeowners association was responsible for maintaining it.

• Kent Place, a private road off Belcher Road, has had deep street flooding. Residents have appeared at recent City Commission meetings to ask officials to fix significant drainage problems in their neighborhood near Allen's Creek. They want Largo to replace a rusty old drainage pipe that's in danger of collapsing, but the city says the pipe isn't its responsibility.

• Judith Jones, who lives in the East Bay Oaks mobile home park off Starkey Road, complained about what she called extreme street flooding. She lives along the same drainage channel as Girard.

Girard lives in a neighborhood that's partly in Largo and partly an enclave of unincorporated Pinellas County. He calls the drainage ditch beside his home a "linear retention pond" because it never goes dry. After walking for a couple of blocks, he comes to the edge of Largo's city limits, where the ditch becomes totally overgrown.

"That is the county," Girard says, pointing, "and it needs to be cleaned."

But there's no money for that.

"We do not have adequate funding at this time to put our ditches on a routine maintenance schedule," said Richard Coates, the county's director of transportation and stormwater.

There are nearly 325 miles of drainage ditches in unincorporated Pinellas, some so clogged with debris that the water flow is significantly slowed, officials say. That's why the county is considering charging residents in the unincorporated areas an annual $126 stormwater fee.

Meanwhile, Girard wants the city of Largo to buy his home.

In years past, Largo did buy several homes that had flooded repeatedly and were classified as "repetitive loss properties." Most were along McKay Creek. Cutting down the number of flood-prone homes helped other Largo residents save money on flood insurance rates.

But the city stopped doing this kind of thing a few years ago. "There is currently no money in that program," Usher said.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D- Orlando  [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Hyde House in Hyde Park Village on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 in Tampa.  [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times]
  3. FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2019, file photo, Disney CEO Robert Iger arrives at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker", in Los Angeles  The Walt Disney Co. has named Bob Chapek CEO, replacing Bob Iger, effective immediately, the company announced Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.  (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, FIle) [JORDAN STRAUSS  |  Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP]
  4. 7/6/01 Coleman, Fl.   Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman, Fl. in Sumter County. The prison's women's camp has confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease [CLIFF MCBRIDE  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  5. U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R- Dover, recently repeated the defense he’s offered since his 2018 election over illegal contributions to his campaign. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Times (2017)]
  6. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. [TMCCARTY  |  times staff]
  7. Ryan Lotito Sr., left, of Spring Hill pitches to his son Ryan Lotito Jr. to work on his swing techniques at the Anderson Snow Sports Complex in Spring Hill.
  8. Two firms have acquired majority ownership of Univision Communications Inc., the largest provider of Spanish-language television in the U.S. [Miami Herald]
  9. Tourists take pictures of the Olympics rings Monday, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) [JAE C. HONG  |  AP]
  10. In this June 17, 2019, file photo, a cashier displays a packet of tobacco-flavored Juul pods at a store in San Francisco. Investigators from 39 states will look into the marketing and sales of vaping products by Juul Labs, including whether the company targeted youths and made misleading claims about nicotine content in its devices, officials announced Tuesday. Juul released a statement saying it has halted television, print and digital advertising and eliminated most flavors in response to concerns by government officials and others.  (AP Photo/Samantha Maldonado, File) [SAMANTHA MALDONADO  |  AP]
  11. Residents at Tampa Park Apartments have been told they must move out by Nov. 1 because the 21-acre property between downtown Tampa and Ybor City has been sold. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
  12. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement