MOSCOW, Idaho — City leaders in Moscow are crediting infrastructure improvements made in the wake of a 1996 flood with reducing impacts from Tuesday's storm.
Heavy rains prompted Paradise Creek to rise rapidly, prompting several roads, intersections, and even some homes and businesses to flood. "We really saw the water come and come up very quickly," said Tyler Palmer, Moscow's acting Public Works Director of the flood. According to Palmer, Tuesday's event marked the highest flood on record.
The flood surpassed a 1996 flood that also caused similar scenes and damage across Moscow and other parts of the Palouse.
"[It] was an event that has really become part of Moscow folklore," Palmer said. The '96 flood was prompted by heavy snowpack that melted during a rapid warmup coupled with rain, Palmer said.
Following the 1996 flood, Moscow made improvements across the city to lessen the impact of future flood events, according to Palmer. Notably, the city installed a roughly tenth of a mile-long overflow channel along South Mountain View Road next to Carol Ryrie Brink Park. The channel is designed to funnel water from Paradise Creek when the creek overflows and protect homes on the North side of the creek.
"This infrastructure in particular really is a lifesaver for the people who live North of this area," said Palmer of the overflow channel.
Other improvements made following the 1996 flood included changes to Bridge Street, a valve system, and landscaping of certain areas near the creek, according to Palmer. Some of the features only help with smaller flood events, though, said Palmer.
Despite the improvements, some homes and businesses were still affected by Tuesday's flood. Palmer noted that Paradise Creek and the city's system is only capable of handling a fixed amount of runoff, and Tuesday's rainfall presented extraordinary challenges.
"With events like this, when you have a one hundred year flood, it's going to be a one hundred year flood," he said.
Palmer also praised city employees who were working at Moscow’s wastewater and reclamation facility during the flood. Employees at the time monitored equipment and prevented raw sewage from entering Paradise Creek.
“In events especially like this one, where minutes count, it was really helpful that we had trained people who knew where they were going and were able to respond quickly,” Palmer said. “We’ve got some tired folks out there.”