Recent downtown Meriden flooding less severe, but still work to go

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MERIDEN — The rainfall Friday that submerged areas around the Meriden Green, including Pratt and Hanover streets, under more than two feet of water indicate that ongoing efforts to reduce flooding along Harbor Brook have had an impact. 

The flooding was spurred by heavy rainfall during a three-hour stretch in the morning. By the time the rain ended at 11 a.m. over two inches had fallen and flooded several city blocks. 

By 2:30 p.m. Friday, the water had receded.  

The fact the water quickly receded Friday was in stark contrast to a well-remembered heavy rain in June 1992 that submerged downtown in floodwaters that lingered for days and caused millions in property damage. 

Bruce Burchsted, longtime owner of Prentis Printing at 25 Pratt St, was among the business owners impacted by that flood. 

Burchsted, who spoke with the Record-Journal on Wednesday, said the flood control measures the city has undertaken have had a positive impact.  

Burchsted recalled after that storm 29 years ago the street level floor of his shop was filled with 18 inches of water. The basement was also completely flooded. 

About $130,000 in equipment needed to be replaced, inventory was lost and the building’s foundation was damaged.  

“It did a job on the building,” Burchsted said. 

He said last Friday’s storm was comparable in terms of rainfall, based on the rain gauge at his home. But this time around, there was no water in his building, which is located directly across from the Meriden Green.

“I think that Meriden Green kind of saved our cookies,” Burchsted said. “I sing its praises highly.”

Burchsted’s shop now has more equipment than it did nearly three decades ago. He estimated the value of that equipment is now around $250,000.

“If we experienced the same kind of water inside the building as we did then, with the additional equipment we have, it certainly would have been at least double the loss,” Burchsted said.

Still Friday’s storm served as a reminder for city officials that plenty more work remains to mitigate Harbor Brook’s flooding issues. 

Public Works Director Howard Weissberg and City Engineer Brian Ennis, who addressed City Council members and other public officials during a remote meeting Tuesday night, outlined a list of flood control projects, including those that have been completed, are underway and planned for the future. All are part of the Harbor Brook Master Plan.  

That list of projects includes water channel improvements underneath the Coe Avenue Bridge, scheduled for later this year, and other channel work near the Amtrak Bridge. 

A project to replace the Cooper Street Bridge is underway and expected to be completed by the end of the year. Construction on another project to replace the Cedar Street Bridge is expected to start next fall. A similar project for the Center Street Bridge is expected to break ground in the  winter of 2022. They are among more than a dozen projects planned over the next few years. 

Weissberg produced maps which showed that after the projects are completed, the city’s floodplain along Harbor Brook’s 3.5 mile stretch will be significantly reduced from 225 acres to 95 acres, with 150 properties and structures completely removed. Flood proofing will be required for another 50 structures in that area. 

“And wherever there is street flooding it will be one foot or less,” Weissberg said. 

Weissberg described the Cooper Street project as “critical.” 

“That’s where Cook [Avenue] and Hanover [Street] experienced their flooding,” Weissberg said. 

CIty Councilor Chad Cardillo asked whether the storm had revealed any potential chokepoints that officials hadn’t previously identified.

Ennis responded the flooding that had occurred on State Street had taken him and other officials by surprise. But, Ennis said, flooding there did not occur because of brook overflows.

The high intensity rainfall, he said, “overwhelmed the drainage system in that area.”

Ennis added overall, the city “had a lot less river flooding. There were only a couple of areas where we observed actual river flooding.”

The river flooding occurred primarily in the Cooper Street, Amtrak Bridge area, Ennis said. 

He added the previous channel improvements and retention measures, which included water storage at the Meriden Green, had “worked well.” 

Without the Green, all that water would have been in the road, Ennis said. 

Mayor Kevin Scarpati said the fact several city streets did see flooding is a sign that work remains. 

“The work we’ve done is not for naught. But it’s not over with, it’s not done,” Scarpati said.


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