Frustration over city's flood plan after damaging storm sends water into family's living room

Posted at 8:43 PM, Jul 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-19 23:43:30-04

Flooding in an Ahwatukee neighborhood Monday night has people upset with the City of Phoenix over a promised flood plan that’s still years away.

“It was coming through all the walls and just seeping in-- mud, water, just a mess,” said Ronald Osteen, who owns a home that flooded on Monday.

Strong storms stalled over South Mountain as a down draft dropped water and produced high winds that uprooted trees.

The Osteens’ sopping carpet was torn out and laid on the front lawn by Tuesday morning. The soggy and ruined bottom foot of drywall throughout their house had been cut away. It’s the second time in two years that they have watched flood waters roll off South Mountain and through their living room.

“Now it's all destroyed again,” Osteen said. “They're supposed to build a flood wall in the back.”

The City of Phoenix decided to build a cement flood wall to manage the water after the historic storms over South Mountain in 2014. The wall would run behind 21 homes and greatly reduce the flooding risk to the 10 most vulnerable houses.

“It would be a barrier, if you will. Water would hit it and follow the hard bottom and go to this other channel further south,” said Hasan Mushtaq, the Phoenix flood plan manager of the Street Transportation Department.

According to Mushtaq, the wall has already been approved by the Phoenix City Council. The project is slated to cost around $800,000 and will be paid for by federal dollars through FEMA. However, the funding is still underwater in Washington, D.C. 

Mushtaq said the city expects the funding to be approved by the end of 2016, with the project slated for 2018. While it's frustrating for neighbors, Mushtaq said this has been the timeline all along.

The Phoenix Street Transportation Department is also pushing for new regulations for developers who choose to build in flood-prone areas near the base of mountains. Mushtaq said, ideally, regulations would force those developers to install flood mitigation as part of their construction, rather than relying on the city to come in and do it later.

“We can't wait. Something’s got to be done,” Osteen said.

The Osteens don’t have flood insurance and have started a GoFundMe account to help cover their expenses.