Street floods an unfortunate circumstance of heavy rain and climate change

Tallinn tram in flooded Kadriorg. Source: Merilin Pärli/ERR

The period of heavy rain following heatwaves in late June and early July flooded many streets around Estonia and everyone from drivers to cyclists was affected. This occurrence, however, is an unfortunate consequence of outdated systems and climate change.

Pärnu was hit by a heavy downpour on Sunday, leading to the streets of the summer capital of Estonia flooded up to peoples' ankles. Roman Vaba, head of technical services of Pärnu Vesi, responsible for the management of water drainage, said that water remaining on streets after downpours is inevitable.

Vaba said: "I would not call it a problem in Pärnu because the cases that we classify as floods have only come up once or twice a year over the last five years, in my experience. Usually, it takes half an hour to an hour to clear up."

Heavy rain reached Tallinn on Monday and while there was no ankle-high flood, passing cars showered many pedestrians and fellow drivers' windshields. Tallinn's environment and utilities manager Tarmo Sulg said that special solutions have been made here and there, but the problem can not be completely solved.

Sulg said: "A solution that would allow for water to be drained from roads and streets immediately is just not physically possible."

Sven Sillamäe, lecturer of road construction at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), said the problem comes from outdated systems.

Sillamäe said: "Yes, we could say it is an inevitability today. The drainage systems, collectors, drains, all of it, is dimensioned based on historical data. And whether we like it or not, the climate has changed and is changing further so we have more extreme weather conditions. That could not have been taken into account back then."

There are two relatively simple solutions, according to Sillamäe. Creating green spaces in the city that would soak up the water or temporary collectors under roads and buildings.

He explained: "If we cover surfaces with concrete and asphalt, water will not go anywhere. But if we had more vegetation, it would help alleviate the capacity that falls on streets. And something else that could be done is these kinds of temporary collectors that can be placed under roads."

Tarmo Sulg said that while the period of rain has passed, for now, the problem still remains.

Sulg concluded: "It is hard to predict storms. When they come, they are accompanied by heavy downpours related to changes in climate and no city in the world is prepared for them currently."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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