The photo is the view from my window of yesterday's flood. The thing is, I've been seeing this view more and more often in heavy rainstorms.
Now, I've been living in this house for more than a half century, and I can remember angry torrents running down the gutter, maybe half a car's width wide. I'm near the bottom of the hills of the North End. Every drop of rain that falls on a non-absorbent surface uphill--every roof, road, sidewalk, driveway--makes its way down the streets that lead toward the creeks. One inch of rain on top of the hill adds up to many feet of water at the bottom.
I don't remember runoff ever coming up onto the sidewalk and covering the grass like it does in heavy rain now, becoming a stream that extends halfway across the street--never before, not even in the worst of hurricanes. I remember Sterigere Street through the park being closed many, many times in the past, but Harding Blvd very rarely was submerged. Now, in the heaviest rain, it's almost to be expected.
Still, I don't think that's the main factor. Much of the North End--and a
lot of other areas of Norristown--used to have tree-lined streets. When
I was young, our street had 1 or 2 trees in front of each house. Now
there's only 4 trees left on my side, and the other side has none. Trees
are great for storm water management. Their canopies act like
umbrellas, slowing the rainfall, spreading it out. Many species of tree
have leaves that actually absorb some rainfall, so less reaches the
ground. And of course their roots act like sponges--those with surface
roots can be especially good at absorbing rainfall because they don't
have to wait for the water to soak into the ground. Thing is, the ones
with surface roots, like the big sycamore in the photo, tend to be the
ones we cut down first, as their roots push up our sidewalks.
trend I've noticed is the tendency for new homeowners to rip out
established gardens in favor of grass. This has happened all around my
neighborhood, especially when the houses are bought as investment
properties. The landlord doesn't want to deal with maintaining a
garden--just wants to mow a lawn--so all the shrubs and perennials are
removed. A healthy lawn may be good for preventing erosion (the grass
underwater in the photo bounced back this morning looking as if nothing
had happened), but grass isn't as good at absorbing water as trees and
shrubs. And, as you can tell by the color of the water in the photo, the
greater and faster the runoff, the more erosion you'll have, too.
As I think I mentioned
in a prior Diary entry, the overflow hose from my rain barrel waters my
side garden. I have 2 trees there--a Japanese maple and a redbud--plus a
few azaleas, hostas, ferns and other perennials. The trees absorb an
amazing amount of water during storms, every drop that falls on the back
half of my house, which yesterday was at least 200 gallons.
homeowners in Norristown planted one tree or bush, if commercial
property owners could line their parking lots with trees and bushes, if
vacant lot owners could be made to plant something besides grass, and if
our municipal government would do the same on their properties, all
this would go a long way toward solving our increasing storm water