Cellar Door deals with regular flooding, some of which was due to a storm drain in a city-owned parking lot that failed in October and flooded the basement bar and a number of Undertown businesses. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend businesses getting ‘good at handling floods’

PORT TOWNSEND — Cellar Door is good at handling floods due to its location in the basement of an old building, but a storm drain blamed for flooding businesses in the city’s Undertown was a curve ball for the small bar.

“It was probably the least damaging flood we’ve ever had,” said Cellar Door owner Dominic Svornich. “But, it’s kind of sad to say, we’ve gotten good at handling floods.”

Cellar Door, 940 Water St., is located in the basement of a building built in 1889 and generally deals with flooding each winter, according to Svornich.

Svornich said the bar generally gets flooded through the front door due to stormwater along Water and Tyler streets backing up and coming down the stairs.

However, Svornich said, the bar has been flooded three times due to a small storm drain in a city-owned parking lot at the end of Water Street — the same storm drain that failed in October and flooded the businesses in Port Townsend’s Undertown and the back area of Cellar Door.

“All three of those floods were the first big rain of the season,” Svornich said. “It’s usually when all the leaves and sticks get stuck and clog up the drain.”

While Svornich said they’ve gotten good at ensuring everything is up off the floor, they did suffer $1,500 to $2,500 in property damage in a flood in October, and each flood has an added staff expense due to the extra time and labor needed to clean everything up.

Svornich said because they’ve gotten used to regular flooding, the flood in October wasn’t as much of a problem for them as it was for the Undertown businesses, which rarely flood.

However, the Undertown businesses, all located in basement-level suites at 211 Taylor St., saw extensive flooding Oct. 11 due to a huge amount of water piling up in the Cellar Door parking lot and spilling over into their businesses.

“When it overflows, the parking lot, it just turns into basically a dam spillway,” said Robert Brinton of Frameworks in Undertown.

Svornich said he reached out to city officials after the second flood due to the parking lot storm drain and reached out to them again after the Oct. 11 flood.

“They were much more responsive,” Svornich said. “Since there were more businesses hit this time, I think it helped them take it more seriously.”

The city does have same plans for stormwater upgrades along Water Street as part of a water main replacement and resurfacing project scheduled for this winter, according to Laura Parson, a civil engineer for the city of Port Townsend.

While that could help mitigate some of the flooding in Cellar Door, the project doesn’t extend to the parking lot storm drain at the end of Tyler Street.

“The project doesn’t extend to that area,” Parsons said.

Parsons said she didn’t know anything about any proposed fixes for the parking lot storm drain.

Greg Lanning of the city Public Works department confirmed that there was a pending claim against the city from some of the Undertown business owners due to the Oct. 11 flooding.

“As to the details of that, we don’t really know yet,” Lanning said.

According to Lanning, the claim will be looked at in more detail next week.

“The storm itself was extraordinary, we know that,” Lanning said. “It came in fast and downpoured, and to the extent that we know, all the storm drainage was working.”

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.