JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There’s frustration among Avondale homeowners every time heavy rains cause significant flooding on Challen Avenue near Park Street.
Homeowners say an aging infrastructure is causing that area to continue flooding pretty badly.
“Water does not move. The drainage sits. That water stands,” said Shannon Blankenship, an Avondale homeowner and the executive director of Riverside Avondale Preservation.
Dr. Chau Kelly, an Avondale homeowner, said, “I might not be able to get to my house or leave my house.”
City officials tell News4Jax they are aware of the problem and are doing something about it, but homeowners say the city’s solution does not appear to be working.
Drivers attempting to navigate more than a foot of flood water send waves of water toward the front doorsteps of homes along Challen Avenue. Homeowners like Kelly and Blankenship say flooding has always been a problem in certain areas of Avondale, but the recent heavy rains have almost made scenes like this a weekly and sometimes daily occurrence.
“In some cases, it was storm cloud that didn’t show up on weather radar. It was just this deluge that came down, and here we were 10 minutes later with water up to the third step of my house,” Kelly said.
Blankenship said, “What is very unique to this area is that it doesn’t need to be a major storm event. Five minutes of rain will impact the ability of residents to just exit their driveway and leave. It’s not just the inconvenience factor. This is also impacting the integrity of our historic homes.”
News4JAX also learned that at least one homeowner on this block had floodwater enter the home.
The city is aware of the problem and has already installed new pipes under the outdoor track of Riverside High School several blocks away. It’s part of a new project to upgrade the drainage system. The pipes are supposed to help direct stormwater to this large drain that empties into a creek that runs through Willow Branch Park. The creek empties out to the St. Johns River.
The homeowners who News4JAX spoke with said that they believe there is something wrong with the pipes that run under their street, making it difficult for all of that water to make it into the drainage area and then ultimately out into the river.
“What we’re experiencing here is more than just a simple fix at the high school in terms of the Willow Branch drainage. It’s not getting to Willow Branch because it’s clogged here,” Kelly said.
Blankenship said, “Infrastructure that may have been designed 100 years ago or more is not necessarily doing the job.”
Jacksonville City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor represents the Avondale and Riverside areas. She was unavailable for comment on camera but her office released a written statement that states:
“Jacksonville over the last couple of years has experienced historically significant increases in rainfall over a very short period of time leading to flooding in certain areas of Riverside and Avondale. After a thorough investigation last year it was determined that the stormwater drainage systems in Riverside and Avondale are undersized when compared to the design requirements for a new subdivision today. A large portion of Avondale drains into Willow Branch Park and with the change in rainfall, the system behind Riverside High School quickly becomes overwhelmed. After neighbors brought this issue to my attention and with the support of the administration, $1,000,000 was secured to upgrade the system. This project is currently underway. I expect every dollar of the funding will be utilized to improve the drainage on Belvedere Ave, Avondale Ave, and Challen Ave. Once these improvements have been completed, we will have a better understanding of what if any other improvements need to be made.”
As far as the floodwaters impacting property values, one homeowner who News4JAX spoke with said that if she were to put her home up for sale right now, she would have to legally disclose to potential buyers that the area floods pretty bad. She said that alone would either keep buyers away or force her to sell the house at a lower price.