Hurricane Sandy's Impact on the Anacostia Watershed


View of the Anacostia River under the South Capitol St Bridge.

Strong storms from Hurricane Sandy started rolling in over our area late on Sunday, October 28, and did not let up until Tuesday, October 30. Weather experts estimated that we received a total of approximately 6 inches of rain during that time, wind gusts reached 80 mph, and tides rose 2 feet higher than normal. Though this storm did not do nearly as much damage in our area as storms in years past, such as the Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee combination, our distant neighbors experienced one of the most violent weather events in recent history. Climate scientists have predicted for decades that extreme weather events like these (e.g., severe droughts, heat waves, heavy precipitation events) would become more frequent because of Earth's increasing average temperature; if you look at the frequency of such events over time, because any one weather event cannot be attributed to climate change, the predictions have become a reality (for more information on this topic, check out UNEP).


Trash and debris collected in a tributary of the Northwest Branch in Hyattsville.

All of the precipitation we did receive ended up running off impervious surfaces (e.g., asphalt parking lots, roads, roofs) and into nearby waterways carrying pollutants (e.g., motor oil, trash, bacteria) with it. While this also happens in a regular rain or snow melt event, runoff is received at a much faster and higher rate during intense precipitation events.


Indian Creek, near Sunnyside Ave. Bridge, flooded its banks...
 


Northwest Branch, near the 38th St Bridge, became a raging stream...
 


… and all of the trash and debris from those streams, along with runoff from nearby land, ended up here in the Anacostia River, some of which will ultimately make its way to the Atlantic Ocean.

To reduce the amount of untreated stormwater runoff entering our waterways, citizens, organizations, and government agencies in the District of Columbia and Maryland are working together to develop and install systems that collect and filter precipitation where it falls. Rain gardens, cisterns, green roofs, permeable pavers, and trash traps (like the one seen below) are just some of these stormwater retrofit systems.


Our new trash trap on Paint Branch was designed to catch floating trash, but allow for those items to bypass during intense rain events so it doesn't clog the stream.

Do you have a stormwater retrofit on your property? If so, how well did it work during the recent storms?

If you don't have one of these systems and would like to learn more about the incentives being offered to install them, please click on the links below.

Washington DC residents, schools, businesses - RiverSmart Program
Montgomery County property owners - RainScapes Program
Prince George's County property owners - The county council passed the Stormwater Retrofit Bill in July! Rebates will be offered soon to property owners. For more information, check out Prince George's County Healthy Communities Coalition as passage of this bill was one of the coalitions initiatives.

 

 

 

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