Monday, December 11

Historic flooding has Fellsmere seeking solutions to ‘complicated’ issue

A few days after a historic 13 inches of rain fell within a 24-hour period in Fellsmere, it’s still the talk of the city.

Monday, parts of the city were still damp from last Thursday’s downpour.

Fellsmere city manager Mark Mathes called the rainfall unprecedented.

“Just to give an example, the 100-year rain event in Fellsmere is 9 inches over 24 hours,” Mathes said, “so we got more than you would expect to get in a 100-year event.

The water didn’t immediately go away, leaving several people stuck in their homes and several businesses without customers.

“It’s not the city’s fault. It’s not the county’s fault,” business owner Fran Adams said. “It’s just something that was freaky, but now that we know it’s an issue, we will address it.”

WPTV took the concerns to Mathes’ office. His response was that “it’s complicated” with several bodies overseeing drainage and stormwater.

“It’s difficult for our residents to really know who to go and see,” Mathes said. “This swale’s the city, that ditch is the county, that’s St. Johns, this is Fellsmere Water Control,” he added.

WPTV contacted the St. Johns Water Management District about flooding concerns, and they wrote back saying, they’re “taking as much water as other entities can pump” to their system and added they’re “capable and prepared to receive” more.

Mathes said the city is focused on completing more stormwater projects, including more stormwater lakes.

“We did just do a very large stormwater project on the south side of town, a 42-acre stormwater lake that might have contributed to the south side may be draining a little quicker,” Mathes said. “We did do a north county lake about 10 years ago, but it was less than half the size of the one we did on the south side.”

In the meantime, he said his office will do the best they can in rare flooding events to keep drains clear of debris and catch basins accepting water.

Mathes also addressed questions that we received from residents about why the city didn’t do more last week to prevent flooding. He said Fellsmere doesn’t have floodgates.

“There’s absolutely nothing that we can flip a switch, turn a knob, do anything except keeping the blockages out,” Mathes said.

According to Mathes, Fellsmere Water Control owns the ditches in the city, and their system is supposed to recover 2 inches in 24 hours. He said most of the floodwater was gone by Sunday, exceeding expectations given the amount of rain that fell.

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