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February 28, 2019

Community Update

by John A. Corella, P.E. – Director of Engineering/Public Works

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On February 14, 2019, the Coachella Valley received a record-breaking flash flood that wreaked havoc on arterial roads that pass through the Whitewater River Channel.  Road closures along the Wash caused tremendous traffic backups throughout the city during the peak of the storm.  Using the statistical data collected from the rainstorm at Palm Springs locations, Cathedral City received approximately 3.51 inches of rain.  This was the wettest day in 76 years of keeping records and the third rainiest day on the record books.  According to the Riverside County Flood Control Agency, this was a 200-year, 12-hour storm.  What does this mean? A lot of water runoff with no immediate place to go! 

At the onset of the storm there were significant full and partial road closures.  Specifically, having occurred at Cathedral Canyon at the Whitewater River Channel low water crossing, Date Palm Drive at Los Gatos Road, Ramon Road east of Date Palm Drive, Date Palm Drive south of Ramon Road, Vista Chino at the Whitewater River, Varner Road west of Edom Hill Road, Varner Road east of Date Palm Drive and Tortuga Road east of Santoro Drive.  Exasperating the traffic in our city, the City of Palm Springs had to close Vista Chino, Indian Avenue and Gene Autry Trail at the Whitewater River Channel as well.  Additionally, Cal Trans closed Highway 111 at Windy Point, a major arterial road that connects Palm Springs with I-10. This caused extensive traffic delays in Cathedral City as the only means to reach I-10 from Palm Springs was Ramon Road and Date Palm Drive, both in Cathedral City.

Were we prepared for this kind of storm event? YES. 
Did the City roadways sustain damages? YES. 
Did the City Public Works, Engineering, Police and Fire Crews respond to the dynamic situation? YES. 

I am happy to report that our city departments worked together to methodically complete strategic road repair as well as temporary modifications to get streets open so that residents, visitors and emergency responders could move around the city safely. 

Significant closures and repairs in detail occurred at:

• Cathedral Canyon low water crossing at the Whitewater River Channel lost the 2 northbound lanes of this 4-lane crossing.  With water flows estimated at 15,000 to 22,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), this portion of roadway sustained significant damage and will be out of service for the next three to four weeks.  Since February 14th, this crossing area has been evaluated by the City Engineer’s office and repairs are underway to restore 2 lanes of the original 4 lane crossing. (This decision is based on the fact that the proposed Cathedral Canyon Bridge Project at this location has been designed and is shovel ready.  The City should be getting the Federal funding necessary to start this Bridge Project toward the end of this year, if not sooner.)  City crews are working with SCE and Spectrum to protect exposed utility cables under this crossing, and as soon as their work is complete, the City’s emergency repair contractor will commence with the repair work on the crossing, which will include new striping and traffic safety signage.  

• Date Palm Drive at Los Gatos Road suffered severe flooding along with a sink hole.  All 3 southbound lanes on this section of roadway were closed as well as the number 3 northbound lane where the sinkhole occurred.  By the end of day on February 14th, city crews had cleared the drains and repaired the sinkhole in the roadway.

• Date Palm Drive south of Ramon Road and Ramon Road east of Date Palm Drive had lanes that were closed due to the flood waters compromising a developer’s power line trench work.  This contractor is working on future SCE underground power lines to support a project on Ramon Road.  The contractor responded to the City inspector’s immediate requirement to abandon the excavations and fill in the trenches with base dirt in order to get the road back open.  Once these trenches were filled, the lanes on both the roadways were reopened that afternoon.  The contractor will be restarting the work in this area this week.

• Vista Chino at the Whitewater River Channel was closed initially by the City of Palm Springs, as this is their section of roadway.  In kind, our City crews closed the roadway at the Cathedral City limits on the east bank of the Whitewater River Channel.  This section of roadway was cleaned up by the City of Palm Springs and was reopened two days after the rain event.

• Varner Road west of Edom Hill was closed for short time as water passing over the roadway at the Willow Hole drainage path started eroding the downstream portion (eastbound lane) of the roadway.  After the Engineering Department staff evaluated the damage, minor repairs were made to make the roadway safe for the short term, and the roadway was reopened in less than two hours.  More significant and permanent repairs will be made in the upcoming weeks as the road remains open. 

• Varner Road east of Date Palm suffered an eastbound shoulder washout, thus making the roadway unsafe for vehicle passage.  City crews evaluated the damage and assessed that this portion of roadway was within the County of Riverside sphere and not within Cathedral City’s.  The City corresponded with the County of Riverside Road Department and the County responded with shoulder repairs that allowed the road to be reopened in a few hours.

• Tortuga Road east of Santoro received large volumes of water and mud, which flooded the street up to the right of way line at the back of the sidewalks.  Once flood waters receded, city crews responded with mud and debris cleanup efforts to allow residents a safe passage to their homes.  The efforts to clean up the street took a few days as the volume of mud was significant.

City Staff estimates that over $1.5 million in damage to roadways occurred as a result of the storm.  Most of the significant damaged happened at the Cathedral Canyon Whitewater River Channel low water crossing. 

As with any storm and flooding event, the city staff took this as an opportunity to see exactly where infrastructure weaknesses were.  As a result, staff will be proposing in this next year’s Capital Improvement Program specific projects that will mitigate some of the road closures that typically occur during these events.  As for Cathedral Canyon Drive at the Whitewater River Channel, the city will do the necessary repairs to reopen the roadway with 2 lanes to create a safe passage for motorist in the interim period before the $20 million Cathedral Canyon Bridge Project gets started later this year. 

Storm events, as we just had, make driving around town difficult and stretches our level of patience.  We saw firsthand the professionalism and dedication our city’s roadway crews and first responders.  Hats off to their extraordinary efforts and we thank you for your patience while we continue the work of reopening Cathedral Canyon Drive at the Whitewater River Channel. 

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NEWS

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Deadline for Applying for the Cathedral City Historic Preservation Committee is Thursday

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New Category for Cathedral City LGBT Days’ Bed Race

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“State of the City” Happens March 5th

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Events

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Stop Identity Theft Program

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The lunch portion begins at 11:30 am.  Tickets for the luncheon are available at www.gcvcc.org

The State of the City address begins at 12:30 pm and is free to the public...Read more.

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sday

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Day of the Young Child

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If you are interested in sponsoring or participating in the event, please contact Jennifer Haessley at (951) 778-5003 or jhaessley@consortiumels.org

 

Read more.

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Speakers Series - Friends of the Cathedral City Library

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For more information, Click Here.

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For Questions or Comments, Contact Chris Parman, Communications and Events Manager
cparman@cathedralcity.gov