LUBBOCK, Texas — During heavy rain, Lubbock streets can flood in just a matter of minutes. According to Michael Keenum, Director of Engineering for the city of Lubbock, the roads can actually help water travel out of town.
“We don’t have rivers. We don’t have streams. We use our roads for that,” said Keenum.
Keenum said that because it’s so flat, Lubbock is known as a surface-drain city, where the water travels through town to the Playa Lakes.
“The water is going to where it’s supposed to go, and it’s just difficult when it comes down that fast and that hard in that short amount of time,” said Keenum. “It just takes time for the system to catch up.”
However, according to Gig Pierce, with Scott’s Car Care, for those who get caught in flooded roads, it can become an expensive problem.
“The air intake system on most cars takes some fresh air, and as it gets too deep, that becomes basically like a vacuum because it’s pulling air into the engine, and it sucks the water in,” described Pierce. “If it gets in there fast enough and enough volume, it can lock an engine down. It can completely destroy an engine.”
Pierce said those kinds of repairs can cost thousands of dollars, but according to Keenum, you may be able to avoid it if you have time.
“I always tell people to wait 30 minutes after the rain has stopped and then see what the conditions are,” Keenum said.
This is about the time it takes for rainwater to reach the playa lakes. once it’s there though, the city’s system works to make sure those don’t add to the flooding.
“By putting a pipe in there to take the water out faster, the lakes have an opportunity to recover in between rain amounts,” said Keenum. “The water is draining down, even though as you look at it, you don’t visibly see like your bathtub. If you pull the plug, you see it draining. It just takes time because it’s big, and we’ve got lots of the lakes that are feeding into these pipes, and so they’re all kind of fighting to get into the same straw.”
Keenum said he and others with the city are always trying to solve flooding problems, but until then, he and Pierce recommend the old saying, “Turn around, don’t drown.”
“Just because you’re truck doesn’t mean you’re immune to getting water into your engine,” said Keenum. “If you try to go through a low water crossing quickly, water is going to get in there and float out your car. And so drive slowly, be smart, stay away from the outside lanes, try to get as close to the center as you can.”