No more empty promises

Published 9:33 pm Wednesday, October 31, 2012

As the images rolled across their television screens in Suffolk, two thoughts likely fought for primacy in the minds of most of those seeing them: “Those poor people.” And “Thank God that wasn’t us.”

With images of chaos and destruction around the Northeast dominating the airwaves and the Internet, it’s hard not to hold both thoughts in mind here in Suffolk, where damage was minimal from Hurricane Sandy, despite the fact that it affected the city’s weather for most of four days.

The city experienced tidal flooding in the places where it usually happens, causing streets to be closed and a couple of Suffolk businesses to suffer water damage. Wind damage was slight, and the general feeling around town was that Hampton Roads had dodged a terrible bullet when the storm track took Sandy well off the coast of Virginia and then to the north before making its turn to the west.

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Still though, there are lessons that can be learned from any such event. One of those lessons here in Suffolk seems to be taught with every hard rain, and yet there has been no solution. That’s the lesson of flooding at the intersection of Nansemond Parkway and Shoulders Hill Road, where the only entrance to Northgate Commerce Park is located.

A poor design — exacerbated by construction activities associated with widening the intersection and planning for the next phase of improvements to Nansemond Parkway — means the intersection is prone to flooding that’s serious enough to keep workers from being able to drive their vehicles safely into the industrial park. City engineers have described the storms that cause that level of flooding as once-a-decade types of events. But the intersection has been flooded three times during the past four months, and only once due to a hurricane that brought a little more than four inches of rain to the area.

Engineers promise the roadway improvements there will take care of the problem, and they assured companies in the park on Friday that temporary pumps put in place at the intersection would keep the problem from happening again. On Tuesday, though, some of those businesses were hauling their workers to their facilities aboard large trucks.

The city’s failure to anticipate the problem’s scope and to devise even a temporary solution is worrisome to business owners in the park, and it undermines Suffolk’s efforts to provide a business-friendly environment.

It’s time for the city to do more than make empty promises regarding this flooding. Surely, it’s a small thing compared to what many people are facing as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Nonetheless, the problem is real, it could have been anticipated and it should have been solved.