ALBANY, N.Y. – “Hazard Mitigation” might be an inelegant term, but it works. Just ask the folks at Binghamton’s Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.
A floodwall, built with hazard mitigation funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and New York State protected this vital property from flood waters that devastated other parts of the city, even as rising water from the Susquehanna River engulfed the hospital’s parking lot during Tropical Storm Lee. City officials estimated that as many as 2,000 buildings suffered storm flood damage.
When the Susquehanna River flooded in June 2006, the hospital suffered more than $20 million in losses. Floodwater breached an earthen dam, flooding the facility, and critical operations were shut down for two weeks. Patients were evacuated and relocated to two other area hospitals. Between 16 to 20 inches of contaminated floodwater covered the hospital’s entire ground floor, and the power plant and many essential components, such as emergency generators, fuel tanks and water supply, sustained severe damage.
After the June 2006 flood, the hospital could not be relocated from the floodplain. Damage was repaired and a floodwall, deemed the most cost effective and reasonable solution, was built over five years at a cost of approximately $7 million. It was completed this past June.
The reinforced concrete floodwall extends 1,365 feet around the hospital between the parking lots and main rear entrance, and reaches heights of 14 feet. It has 10 control gates, which can be operated electronically or manually and accommodates both vehicle and foot traffic.
During Tropical Storm Lee, the hospital staff implemented its emergency plan and had time to manually close all 10 gates. The hospital operated at full capacity during and after the storm. Patients were not evacuated, although there was a contingency plan to so in an emergency. Only elective surgeries were cancelled and a few services shut down.
The hospital, in the picturesque city of Binghamton with a population of 47,376, and surrounded by rolling hills and rivers, averted major storm damage thanks to hazard mitigation and its floodwall.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.