Water-Related News

Clearwater has a $100 million plan to prevent this neighborhood from flooding

North Beach residents have been flooded again and again. City officials are weighing their options as peak hurricane season approaches.

As Hurricane Idalia swept past Tampa Bay last summer, storm surge topped seawalls and inundated David Hooks’ Clearwater Beach neighborhood.

Though his home was spared, houses up and down Hooks’ street weren’t so lucky. Neighbors soon mounted full remodels, only to be flooded out again months later when another storm washed away progress in December.

After these back-to-back floods, city staff started to research why the area didn’t flush out as quickly as it should have, said Marcus Williamson, Clearwater’s public works director. They found decades-old stormwater pipes were unmaintained and blocked by debris. There was also a much larger issue: The network of pipes didn’t connect and many were too narrow to effectively push out floodwaters.

“At the time it was developed, it probably made sense,” Williamson said. “A lot of folks have said we’ve always struggled with flooding. It does feel like it has gotten worse.”

But booming development along the Gulf Coast coupled with rising seas fueled by climate change have pushed current stormwater infrastructure to its limits. Now, the city is looking to fund a decades-long project that may cost up to $100 million to safeguard Clearwater’s most vulnerable and low-lying neighborhood from future floods.

The city started by cleaning out pipes and upgrading valves that prevent high tide flooding from rushing into underground pipes meant to allow rainwater to drain away from streets and homes.