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Experts warn that San Diego is not prepared for a major hurricane

Bonita flood
Posted at 5:24 PM, Sep 29, 2022

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — As Florida deals with the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Ian, local experts warn that San Diego is likely to face increasingly intense storms in the future. They also strongly urge improving the region's storm infrastructure.

“What we’re finding is with the climate change impacts, we’re getting 100-year-storms happening a couple of times in ten years," said SANDAG Director of Engineering & Construction Sharon Humphreys. "In the old days, we’d get an inch of rain in an hour. Now we’re getting an inch of rain in ten minutes. What that means is it’s something we should be concerned about.”

Humphreys says that the region's storm drains were built 30 to 50 years ago and that they are no longer big enough to handle the incoming water during storms.

“There’s a lot more buildings, there’s a lot more roadways, there’s a lot more parking lots. What that means is when the rain comes down on those surfaces, it doesn’t have anywhere to go but into a storm drain."

San Diego State University Engineering Assistant Professor Hassan Davani says San Diego's storm infrastructure is also too centralized, designed to funnel water to specific locations on the coast.

Devani, who studies the impact of climate change on infrastructure, says that rising sea levels mean that many of those locations may now be below ground level. So when intense rain runoff from the mountains and inland valleys rushes toward the coast, those storm drains are already flooded.

"When storms like this happen, the pipes, the network is already filled with water. So there is no room for extra water.”

Devani says the storm infrastructure must be expanded with increased capacity, as well as decentralized with locations built higher and further inland.

“In terms of risk, if something happens here and what is going to be the impact, we’re actually very vulnerable in terms of the impact that flooding that can have on our neighborhoods and communities.”