Why do Lubbock streets flood every time it rains? They were designed to.

“Our roads are rivers. We use our streets as our streams.”
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 7:04 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - If you’ve tried to drive in the rain for the past few weeks, you’ve seen plenty of standing water in the streets, but it turns out that’s how the City of Lubbock planned for it.

And with more rain in the forecast, can our drainage system handle it? Our drainage structures were made to drain rainwater into the playa lakes but in June of 1999 most of Lubbock was under water because of flaws in the drainage system.

“The playa lakes bathtubs just filled up and had nowhere to go other than to just spill over,” City of Lubbock Division Director of Engineering Mike Keenum said.

He says since the flood of ‘99 they have put three major drainage systems into the lakes.

“Now with the pipes that are in there connecting it all and discharging it out to the canyon we have the ability to allow the lakes to recover between each rain event,” Keenum said.

The drains are made to bring the lake levels back down so they can hold the rainfall.

“With the rains that we have had if we didn’t have those systems in place, I feel like we would’ve had a similar flooding situation like we did back in ‘99,″ he said.

Residents naturally worry about flooding because our streets carry water every time it rains, Keenum says that’s what they are made to do.

“We’re a surface draining city so as it rains, water gets in the streets, they all are designed to drain into the playa lakes,” Keenum said.

If you notice that the streets are no longer flooded about 30 minutes after the rain stops, that means the drainage system is working.

Keenum says moving the system fully underground is possible, but Lubbock just doesn’t get enough rainfall to justify the expense.

“Does it make sense to put billions of dollars into projects onto the rate payers in Lubbock for something that happens once every few years?” Keenum said.

Keenum assures residents there are no concerns about major flooding with the recent rainfall and the drainage system is doing its job... even if the streets are flooding.