Airport Road, or as commuters may call it, “Airport Pond,” has experienced severe flooding over the past week due to heavy rain.
According to WPRI’s weather team, between Thursday and Saturday, Rhode Island had 3 to 5 inches of rainfall. Another 2 inches fell from Monday into Tuesday. This has caused major problems in the Pawtuxet River, which is a foot and a half over flood stage at 10.46 feet. Although it will begin to slowly recede, more rain is expected over the weekend.
Airport Road is no exception to the flooding, except for one major difference. Commuters need to drive down the state road to get to work. On Tuesday, Department of Transportation (DOT) workers gathered at the scene to diagnose the problem in the drainage system underneath the road.
“An obstruction is in the line, and isn’t letting the water flow the way it should,” said one crewmember.
The line is 625 feet long between both drainage basins. The block is believed to be near the end of the line, approximately 50 to 70 feet from the second basin. While the pond was drained Tuesday with pumps, the drain remains partially plugged and DOT spokeswoman Rose Amoros said yesterday, crews would be back.
“We will be monitoring it closely and will be back out there this week to run a camera into the line to investigate the main cause of the obstruction and assess damage to the line, if any. The water is flowing well at this point.”
Director of Maintenance Joe Baker said the DOT was able to temporarily solve the issue.
“We had a vacuum truck and a sewer jet out there, and we were able to move the obstruction enough that water can pass through, but it’s not completely removed. Towards the end of the day we ran about 1,000 gallons of water through it and the water was able to go through,” he said.
Baker also said a secondary problem is possible, but that has to be determined once the camera is sent through. The pipe itself is old and made of clay, which is likely to crack. But, because water was running through the pipe at the end of the day on Tuesday, there is only a slight chance that there is a crack.
Although the problem has been fixed for the time being, business owners along Airport Road are still frustrated, since the line has a history of flooding. Bill Tuttle, owner of Shane Awards Inc. at 85 Airport Road, is confused about why the flooding still occurs.
“I’m very surprised because when they resurfaced the road I thought they had fixed this and that the problem was taken care of. I don’t know what’s happening,” he said.
Before Airport Road was resurfaced, there was flooding both near Tuttle’s establishment and closer to the airport itself. While the flooding has stopped near the airport, it seems to have gotten worse farther down the street, as Tuesday’s events showed.
The flooding on Tuesday was so bad that Tuttle even recommended to his customers to just not come in because the traffic was so backed up.
“I’ve never done that before,” he said.
Tuttle worries that customers won’t want to come to his business anymore because of the flooding and the traffic, especially after how backed up Airport Road was on Tuesday. According to him, that was the worst the flooding had been since the road was resurfaced just over a year ago.
Dawn Sloane, who is a manager at Distinctive Touch Salon on Airport Road, shares Tuttle’s annoyance.
“It happens every time it rains. We get a nice little lake out front,” she said.
The flooding is normally just a nuisance for the salon manager, leaving debris in front of the salon when it finally does drain, and making it a challenge for both stylists and clients. Tuesday, however, was a bit different. The salon, located at 140 Airport Road, was in the middle of the commotion, between both DOT teams working to drain the water.
“This is the first time I’ve seen them actively do anything,” she said. “Normally one guy comes by and just puts out cones. I have never seen them bring a truck and pump water the way they were.”
Sloane’s clients were affected as well. The salon received calls asking if they were even open due to the equipment surrounding the building. But, unlike Tuttle, the salon still allowed customers to come in, even though it was a challenge.
There has been no word from the Department of Transportation about when they plan to return and assess possible damages to the drainage line, but Baker said they will be back at the beginning of next week at the latest.