Litter, Locale Major Factors in Flooding
By Jonathan Bym, Editor
Campus flooding has been a big issue the first seven weeks of the school year with the most frequent question popping up on social media: “why does the campus flood so bad?”
“The obvious answer would be we had a lot of rainfall,” Assistant Vice Chancellor of Facility Management Steve Martin said. “The substantial rainfall we’ve received this season has exposed some of the storm drainage issues we have on campus.”
There are many factors that have caused the flooding on campus that are not directly affected by students, but there is one factor that could be avoided with student awareness.
“What we do find is a lot of trash,” Martin said. “We got a plenty of trashcans on campus, on the way to work and class, but I see more trash on the ground than I have ever seen.”
The drainage system on campus gets cleaned out every two or three years according to Martin. It has been two years since a vacuum truck has last cleaned out, and the next scheduled time is expected to be next semester.
Along with the underground pipes having trash blockages, the main cause is due to the relatively flat landscape around campus. With high amounts of rain fall in the area, the local rivers and creeks get backed up causing the town and the campus water runoff systems to back up resulting in the flooding on the lower areas of campus, Martin said.
“It’s the nature of Robeson County being in a low, swampy area,” he said.
Water on campus tends to flow from the west to the east, according to Martin, and once they meet up with the backed up canals and city runoff system the bottleneck effect starts to occur, causing the water to come back to campus. The goal of the water flow is to have it run off to the swampland on the other side of Pembroke.
According to Martin, the high-risk areas on campus are on Faculty Row in front of Oak Hall, the intersection of University Drive and Braves Drive by Lumbee Hall and parking lot 18A by the softball field.
During the downpour on Sept. 13 and 25, the parking lots near the railroad tracks saw water pooling up because of runoff from the railroad tracks.
For the high flood risk areas to be fixed, additional piping will be needed, but one problem sits in the way.
Funding is needed for a new drainage system to be put in place to help the high flood areas; something that Martin is waiting on.
“Additional underground storm drainage piping will be needed,” he said. “It’s a priority, but there is no funding in place from the state for it. We would like to address it as soon as the state provides funding.”
These areas have already had flooding occur three times throughout this semester with the most recent coming on Sept. 25.
The two earlier occurrences on campus this year came on Sept. 7 and 13.
In the past, areas like the parking lots around the University Center and Wellons Hall always suffered from flooding and have had the runoff system improved so it is no longer an issue.
According to geology and geography associate professor Dr. Dennis Edgell, the southeast is just experiencing more rainfall than usual.
“It’s the pressure patterns that bring warm humid air from the Gulf of Mexico cycling over us,” he said.
The three major flooding instances this year are the most frequent that have happened in recent years.
In the past, flooding on campus has occurred once or twice a year, so three times within a month has really become a major issue this year.
When the roads on campus flood, campus police will close many of them for the safety of students and faculty driving on campus.
What to do?
When heavy rain is forecast, it is important for everyone to be proactive. Martin said the main things students and faculty can do is plan ahead.
“You may want to consider other parking areas that are less prone to flooding,” he said.
Photo by Sara Owen. A jeep splashes through a flooded commuter lot near the railroad tracks on Sept. 25. Cartoon by Johnion Hunt.