Mesa Residents Affected By The Sept 8 Floods Are Asking For The Courts Help In Preventing Their Prop

Mesa Residents Affected By The Sept 8 Floods Are Asking For The Courts Help In Preventing Their Prop

Nearly 100 Mesa residents whose homes were flooded after September's record downpour have filed a lawsuit against the city, state and Arizona Department of Transportation Director John Halikowski.The complaint, filed Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court, claims the agencies either knowingly or negligently used properties in the Emerald Acres area for "overflow and storage of storm water collected throughout the City of Mesa and a portion of U.S. Highway 60" after Sept. 8's record downpour.Residents are seeking an injunction to prevent it from happening again.The historic rainstorm slammed the Valley in the early-morning hours, stranding residents in their homes and cars as water rose throughout the region. By early afternoon, the rain had eased. But in Mesa, the mammoth Emerald Park retention basin had begun to overflow, flooding an elementary school and nearly 200 nearby homes."Defendants continued to cause or allow water to be diverted into Emerald Park even though they knew or should have known that there was no effective outlet for the water entering Emerald Park other than in and through the plaintiffs' ... homes and property," the residents' complaint says, asking that a judge intervene so properties won't again be inundated if a comparable storm hits.One strategy could involve restricting the amount of water officials are allowed to pump into the Emerald Park basin, though the parameters of any injunction would be up to the presiding judge.The city and ADOT, which operate separate but interrelated pieces of the area's drainage system, have maintained that the floods resulted from the sheer amount of rain in a short time. Typically, ADOT's flood-control canal and Mesa's retention basins act as relievers for each other, but that day, all parts of the system were overwhelmed, officials said.
Arthur Lyman pushes a friends baby Alyssa Guarino22 months in a plastic pool down his flooded neighborhood at the intersection of E Glade Ave and S Allen in Mesa Tuesday September 9 2014  The area was inundated with water after the deluge on Monday  Wayne Guarino Alyssas uncle third from left and Michael Rodriguez right are in background
Arthur Lyman, pushes a friend's baby, Alyssa Guarino,22 months, in a plastic pool down his flooded neighborhood at the intersection of E. Glade Ave. and S. Allen in Mesa, Tuesday, September 9, 2014. The area was inundated with water after the deluge on Monday. Wayne Guarino, Alyssa's uncle, third from left, and Michael Rodriguez, right, are in background. (Photo: Tom Tingle/The Republic)
  • Arthur Lyman pushes a friends baby Alyssa Guarino22 months in a plastic pool down his flooded neighborhood at the intersection of E Glade Ave and S Allen in Mesa Tuesday September 9 2014  The area was inundated with water after the deluge on Monday  Wayne Guarino Alyssas uncle third from left and Michael Rodriguez right are in background
  • Residents and friends and family of residents walk through the flooded road of South Allen just east of Stapley Drive in Mesa on Tuesday September 9 2014 This neighborhood east of Stapley Drive and north of the US60 sustained major flooding from yesterdays record rainfall Some of these people were attending a community meeting and others were going to get ice at nearby neighborhood school
  • Arthur Lyman 27 walks through his flooded neighborhood at the intersection of E Glade Ave and S Allen in Mesa Tuesday September 9 2014  The area was inundated with water after the deluge on Monday  Lyman said the house he lives in stayed dry due to sandbags
  • Timothy Donatini gets emotional as he talks about his wife and 7-year-old son as he sits in his flooded neighborhood at the intersection of E Glade Ave and S Allen in Mesa Tuesday September 9 2014  The area was inundated with water after the deluge on Monday  Donotini slept in the chair he is sitting in all night with water up to his calves because everything he owns is stacked on the table behind him
  • Flooding in Mesa
  • Laura Moravek carries her granddaughter Alyssa Guarino 21- months in a kiddie pool as they walks through the flooded road of South Allen just east of Stapley Drive in Mesa on Tuesday September 9 2014 Moravek and Alyssa live just down the street where their home sustained some minor flooding This neighborhood east of Stapley Drive and north of the US60 sustained major flooding from yesterdays record rainfall
  • Laura Moravek carries her granddaughter Alyssa Guarino 21- months as they walks through the flooded road of South Allen just east of Stapley Drive in Mesa on Tuesday September 9 2014 Moravek and Alyssa live just down the street where their home sustained some minor flooding Moravek used the kiddie pool to transport her granddaughter when she got tired of carrying her This neighborhood east of Stapley Drive and north of the US60 sustained major flooding from yesterdays record rainfall
  • Butch Schultz carries a backpack to his daughter Fernanda Schultz 22 as she heads to her car parked several blocks away from their flooded neighborhood at the intersection of E Glade Ave and S Allen in Mesa Tuesday September 9 2014
  • Flooding in Mesa
  • Anthony Desiata carries a box from his house to his car in a flooded neighborhood at the intersection of E Glade Ave and S Allen in Mesa Tuesday September 9 2014  The area was inundated with water after the deluge on Monday
  • Butch Schultz left hands a backpack to his daughter Fernanda Schultz 22 as she heads to her car parked several blocks away from their flooded neighborhood at the intersection of E Glade Ave and S Allen in Mesa Tuesday September 9 2014  The area was inundated with water after the deluge on Monday  Fernanda was on her way to class at ASU
  • Angel Jaime left holds hands with his girlfriend Penny Tucker as they make their way through their flooded neighborhood at the intersection of E Glade Ave and S Allen in Mesa Tuesday September 9 2014  The area was inundated with water after the deluge on Monday
  • Timothy Donatini gets emotional as he talks about his wife and 7-year-old son as he sits in his flooded neighborhood at the intersection of E Glade Ave and S Allen in Mesa Tuesday September 9 2014  The area was inundated with water after the deluge on Monday  Donotini slept in the chair he is sitting in all night with water up to his calves because everything he owns is stacked on the table behind him
  • Flooding in the neighborhoods around US 60 and Stapely
  • Michael Baldoneger a City of Mesa Equipment Operator operates a vactor truck to suck up water on the flooded street of S Doran just east of Stapley Drive in Mesa on Tuesday September 9 2014 This neighborhood east of Stapley Drive and north of the US60 sustained major flooding from yesterdays record rainfall
  • Jose Patino left and Richard Wang of the Salvation Army out of Mesam transport water and ice to residents on the flooded street of S Doran just east of Stapley Drive in Mesa on Tuesday September 9 2014 This neighborhood east of Stapley Drive and north of the US60 sustained major flooding from yesterdays record rainfall
  • Richard Wang of the Salvation Army out of Mesa hands a bottled water to Mary Ampudia of Mesa on the flooded street of S Doran just east of Stapley Drive in Mesa on Tuesday September 9 2014 This neighborhood east of Stapley Drive and north of the US60 sustained major flooding from yesterdays record rainfall
  • Ryan Brown walks back to his home for the first time since being evacuated the day before on the flooded street of E Harmony Circle just east of Stapley Drive in Mesa on Tuesday September 9 2014 This neighborhood east of Stapley Drive and north of the US60 sustained major flooding from yesterdays record rainfall Browns home sustained significant flooding throughout the entire home
  • Flooding in Mesa
  • Rose Gleesing a resident of this Mesa neighborhood walks through the flooded road of South Allen just east of Stapley Drive in Mesa on Tuesday September 9 2014 This neighborhood east of Stapley Drive and north of the US60 sustained major flooding from yesterdays record rainfall Gleesings home sustained some flooding damage
  • Johnny Bryant center with the City of Mesa adjusts a manhole cover as water drains downs a manhole along E Hilton Ave just east of Stapley Drive in Mesa on Tuesday September 9 2014 This neighborhood east of Stapley Drive and north of the US60 sustained major flooding from yesterdays record rainfall Mesa Firefighter Jason Nickelson left looks on as Ed Crabtree also with the City of Mesa walks by
  • Keller Elementary flooded
  • Flooding in Mesa
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Most of Mesa's drainage infrastructure was built to handle a a 100-year storm, or a storm that in any given year has only a 1 percent chance of occurring. The ADOT channel was built for a 50-year storm.Officials and engineers have called the Sept. 8 deluge a 1,000-year storm.Angry residents still reeling from damage to their homes are not sold on that explanation. They held neighborhood meetings, called ADOT and repeatedly addressed the Mesa City Council in recent weeks, demanding to know if the flood could have been prevented and if the city and state's response after the flood could have been better."We, the residents of the area, were left with homes without power, resulting in spoiled food, no lighting, no air-conditioning, no hot water, no means by which to fix meals — only nasty E. coli and other bacteria-ridden floodwater," resident Tim Laskowski told the council on Nov. 3. "I want answers."Karen Gleason, who is in the process of joining the lawsuit, saw her home and nearly all its contents destroyed."My whole universe and my 10-year-old daughter's universe has been shattered by this," she said. "There are certain things that are irreplaceable."Stephen Brower, one of the lawyers representing the neighbors, said his team is "seeking an injunction at this stage because, first and foremost, we need the city and state and ADOT to recognize there's a problem that's still not corrected." Brower's firm, Moyes Sellers & Hendricks, puts the number of flooded homes closer to 300. After completing interviews with the affected property owners, the team will file individual notices of claim with the agencies outlining damages.If officials ignore the notices or the parties aren't able to work out an agreement, the team will move to take the case to trial — possibly as a class-action lawsuit if the group can lock down the necessary certification.Among other charges, the injunction request alleges that:Stormwater that had been collected in other retention areas throughout Mesa was pumped or otherwise released into the city drainage system or ADOT channel so that it ultimately entered Emerald Park.There was no effective overflow relief for the Emerald Park basin.Certain pumps were not operating properly on Sept. 8.The ADOT channel had not been properly maintained.Public-safety officials did not act quickly enough in pumping water out of the flooded neighborhoods.The Arizona Republic has obtained public records from Mesa and ADOT to analyze the truth of those claims and to attempt to piece together exactly what happened Sept. 8.MORE: How the Mesa flood happened, and whyMesa Councilman Alex Finter, who was serving as mayor the week of the floods, addressed some of the charges in an interview with The Republic earlier this week."I've heard some of the criticism that says, 'What were you doing when our neighborhood was flooded?' One of the main things we were doing was evacuating and rescuing people," he said. "The school there, Keller (Elementary), had 600 children at the school ... and that water was climbing. We used the equivalent of three alarms worth of fire department and police personnel to start evacuating these children."We literally had to hike, carry and move these kids up onto the freeway embankment and then down to Horne Street, where they could be extracted with buses and cars and everything else. That is a tremendous logistical challenge."Public-safety officials used boats to rescue elderly residents and a pregnant woman, Finter said, while others worked to minimize the risk of electrocution."That neighborhood, it has all the electrical boxes and power lines underground in the front yards and backyards, and the water was starting to climb and invade those," he said. "There was a very serious risk. ... It took several hours to accomplish all of that and try and make the neighborhood safe."As for the decision to hold off on pumping water out of the flooded neighborhood for several hours, Finter said officials were attempting to protect the rest of the city."We know we have the damage here; this is a terrible situation that's occurred. But we know it is somewhat stopped right here," he said, describing officials' thought process that day. "If we decide to start pumping all this water to the next retention basin or the next neighborhood, are we now going to damage dozens or hundreds (more) homes? ... In our minds, we didn't have a place to put these millions of gallons until we knew it was going to be safe."Mesa stressed that it has continued to look for ways to help affected residents and to avert a similar disaster. Officials recently applied for five grants of up to $250,000 to examine and possibly rework parts of the city's drainage system."There were a few hot spots around town. We've identified those as a couple of areas where we're asking for some additional funding to make some structural changes," Mesa Mayor John Giles said last month. "I think, going forward, that will help us avoid (a disaster) if next year we have another 1,000-year flood."ADOT spokeswoman Laura Douglas said the department cannot comment on pending lawsuits, saying only that "ADOT continues to work on the assessment of the historic September 8 flooding."


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Dated: November 21st 2014
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