Rainfall from Isaac remnants less than expected

All eyes turned to the sky this past weekend as the National Weather Service warned that the remnants of Hurricane Isaac were forecasted to drop around 10 inches of rain on the Champaign-Urbana area. But despite causing localized flooding, the storm that blew in over the Labor Day weekend fell short of the most drastic expectations.

Eric Snodgrass, professor of atmospheric sciences, said the region was hit with 3.6 inches of precipitation over the weekend. That was 6.4 inches less than the National Weather Service’s forecast that prompted a mass email from Chancellor Phyllis Wise warning of the possibility of dangerously high water.

Snodgrass set up a rain gauge in his backyard to track precipitation over the weekend, and said that as Isaac moved closer to central Illinois from the Gulf Coast, the rain that fell was a result of the system slowing down and stalling over one area of land.

“It’s been (Isaac’s) rain that’s been the big story,” Snodgrass said. “And that’s the story for us here this weekend.”

Kris Koester, administrative services supervisor of Champaign Public Works, said crews were sent out Friday to prepare for the storm and continued to work through 11 a.m. Sunday morning.

Before the storm was scheduled to hit, service trucks carried “portable barricades, lights, rain gear and other tools that can be used to help clear clogged inlets and address flooding and crews left barricades in areas prone to flooding to provide them the ability to quickly block off an area as needed,” according to a Public Works press release.

Koester said the storm did not leave much damage, as it “drastically diminished over initial reports.” However, there were still a few places around the city that did experience flooding.

“There was a section of South Second Street near Armory that flooded during the Aug. 9 storm that flooded again this weekend,” Koester said. “We aren’t sure what caused it, but will look into it with our environmental engineers this week.”

Other areas that ended up flooding around the city included intersections at State and Springfield, Bradley and McKinley and the Washington St. viaduct, Koester said.

The city of Urbana was forced to cancel the annual Labor Day parade and postpone the Labor Day picnic due to unfavorable ground conditions caused by heavy rainfall. The picnic has been rescheduled for Saturday.

“I was hoping to march with a group of my own volunteers and to show solidarity with many of our members in the area,” said Charlie Smyth, alderman for Ward 1.

Back on campus, the University made preparations for the inclement weather prior to the storm, said Andy Blacker, manager of external relations for facilities and services.

“We’re basically trying to secure the campus as best as possible,” Blacker said.

The University’s Facilities and Services department sent employees to check windows and window wells on campus buildings to make sure they were closed, as well as sandbagged certain areas. Facilities and Services also cleaned out street drains to “reduce any potential flooding,” Blacker said.

In the Massmail, Wise advised students to use caution when traveling around campus, and assured that the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics department was “prepared with evacuation plans” for any athletic events held on campus.

Although Saturday’s outdoor soccer match against University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was rescheduled for Monday, the athletic department had not planned to reschedule Saturday’s football game against Western Michigan, said Kent Brown, sports information director.

“We (were) looking at a large rain event, and it’s not unusual to be rained on during outside events,” Brown said. “We (had) a normal plan in place in case there is lightning, and then the game would (have been) suspended.”

Brown said outdoor grass parking lots were also being monitored on Saturday, as some were susceptible to rain damage.

Remnants of Isaac brought 1.5 inches of rain Saturday morning, but stopped during the football game because the area was underneath a rainband, or a break in the storm, Snodgrass said.

“It was great to see that the rain stopped briefly for the football game,” he said.

In addition to the weather precautions for the football game, sorority recruitment, which was originally scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, was also affected. As a result of the National

Weather Service’s warnings, Saturday’s recruitment was cancelled and moved to Monday, said Melanie Kuta, junior in Media.

Kuta, who serves as a “Gamma Chi,” or Greek counselor, during recruitment, said the “storm was not as bad as we expected” and was glad that “recruitment was able to be resumed the following day.”

_Gordon Utendahl contributed to this report._