City says Roseville’s flood protection passed recent test

By: Scott Thomas Anderson, Editor
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The image of muddy, rushing waters coming to the tops of fire hydrants in 1995 is still with many that work in Roseville’s government — and the fact that nothing like it was seen during the big Dec. 2 storm is being viewed as proof the city’s flood protection improvements are working.  

On Jan. 10, 1995, Roseville was hit with a “century flood,” sending a deluge of water cascading over Vernon Street, as well as neighborhoods and intersections near Linda Creek and Cirby Creek. More than 300 homes were damaged, a number of which were submerged in more than 6 feet of water. 

“The city leaders at the time said, ‘We can’t ever let this happen again,’” said Brian Jacobson, Roseville’s public information officer. “That’s when they embarked on a series of flood improvement projects that have happened at different points during the years.”

The city went into action by 1996, using more than $3 million of its own funds and $2 million in grants to engage in water channel excavations, building berms and floodwalls and replacing culverts with bridges. Structures along Vernon Street, Riverside Avenue, Tina Way and Elisa Way have the most protection from these improvements. Another $15 million in improvements followed in 2001 as the city launched a home elevation program, excavated more channels, built more flood walls and installed bypass pipes. The projects, some of which were paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, helped protect structures near Sunrise Avenue and the Oakridge area.     

According to Jacobson, Roseville is now the only city in the United States. to hold FEMA’s highest ranking for flood control and protection.

But memories of the 1995 flood are still hard to shake for some who endured it — and storms as powerful as Sunday’s system can still cause consternation.

Hours of pounding rain did take a toll on Roseville's avenues, closing the Washington Boulevard underpass and swamping a number of residential lanes and parking lots. Showers reached a fevered pitch around 8 a.m. By 10 a.m., hazardous flooding in both lanes of the Washington Boulevard underpass prompted Roseville police and city workers to shut it down. Flooding on Estates Drive near Roseville Square reached noticeable levels during the worst of the storm, with water rising halfway up the front lawns of the houses. Cirby Creek left its banks and peaked at 8:30 a.m., before receding. Linda Creek rose at a slower rate, thanks to flood control improvements.

The Roseville Fire Department did respond to the Westfield Galleria just after 3 p.m., after the storm caused a water-soaked piece of drywall from the mall’s exterior to fall, hitting a bell-ringer outside. The fire department reported no significant injuries from the incident.  

Creek levels in the west part of the city near Foothills Boulevard and Pleasant Grove Boulevard threatened to spill into busy roadways, though by noon a break in the rain caused flooding issues across Roseville to recede.

“We didn’t have any structures flooded due to creek levels,” Jacobson said. “The structures that did get water were due to clogged storm drains, and that was really a result of so many fall leaves getting knocked down all at once by the storm.”

City crews spent much of Sunday working to unclog those drains — a task that continued into Tuesday.

“The important thing is, the creeks held,” Jacobson added. “The flood protection improvements did really well.”