Cincinnati creates emergency task force to tackle weather damage

Posted at 1:05 AM, May 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-24 06:16:48-04

CINCINNATI -- Eileen King, like many other residents of Empress Avenue in Columbia-Tusculum, has seen recent severe weather turn her street turn into a river and create plumbing backups so bad her toilets flowed in reverse. Even more than the physical and financial inconvenience these events create -- ruined furniture, flooded basements -- she worries about her neighborhood's safety.

"When it's four, five feet of water, the fire, police or ambulance -- if something happens down here, what are they going to do?" she asked.

Joe McCauley, who also lives in Columbia-Tusculum, said Tuesday that "it makes absolutely no sense" his house even exists, given the abuse it's endured from the weather. His foundation, he said, is so waterlogged from repeated flooding that it's begun to crumble.

Stories similar to King's and McAuley's exist all over Cincinnati, from the soggy streets of their neighborhood to the slipping hillsides of Mount Adams. According to a May 18 memo from City Manager Harry Black, "parts of the city have experienced 100-year rain events three times in the last year."

That's why, Black said, the city has assembled an internal task force to "review these issues and develop recommendations" for the proper maintenance of city infrastructure and allocation of city funds.

Members of public departments such as Greater Cincinnati Water Works, the Metropolitan Sewer District and the Office of Environment and Sustainability will comprise this task force, which will meet Wednesday night.

"I wouldn't be optimistic the trend won't continue, so yeah, we need to come to grips with this as best we can," said Vice Mayor David Mann.

On Empress Avenue, King said optimism about the city's work was her only choice. It's not as though she can move.

"I can't stay here, and I can't leave," she said. "So what can you do?"