Cleaning the Drains: Orange County Public Works Preps for Hurricane Season
Orange County Public Works is currently inspecting the County’s primary and secondary drainage systems, which include canal systems, retention ponds and subdivision street inlet pipes, and is also checking drainage wells and pump stations as needed. Specifically, any and all blockage to drainage systems (such as vegetation or sediment) is being removed, and drainage areas historically prone to flooding are being constantly monitored and maintained.
“Every year prior to hurricane season, we make a thorough inspection of all of our primary drainage systems to ensure we aren’t scrambling at the last minute,” said Jeff Charles, Project Manager – Operations Section, Orange County Public Works, Stormwater Management Division. “In fact, the Stormwater Management Division and Roads and Drainage Division teams work diligently so we’re proactive year-round because we never know when a heavy rain event may occur.”
In preparation for hurricane season, Public Works has met with its entire team and gone over assignments should the region encounter an approaching tropical event. It also has met with its hurricane debris contractors to ensure they are aware of expectations and who they will be dealing with immediately if fallen debris is a byproduct of a storm.
At least 72 hours ahead of a storm, fixed-pump stations in low-lying areas are operated to lower lakes, ponds and canal systems. This provides additional storm water storage should the region encounter heavy rainfall. All teams also check their assigned areas and take action to clear anything that may slow the storm water down as it flows to canals, ponds and drainwells.
Additionally, mobile pumps are dispatched to County-maintained areas and all equipment is fueled up and made ready to respond at a moment’s notice. Traffic Engineering verifies all of its mobile generators are ready to go should power outages occur.
Working with the Parks and Recreation Division, Public Works provides citizens with a self-serve sandbag program at five different parks within the County. The department also ensures sandbag filling areas are set up if heavy amounts of rainfall associated with a tropical event are predicted well in advance of the storm.
Charles affirmed that 51 primary control structures, 85 drainwells, 19 pump stations, 95 miles of primary canals, and 85 miles of secondary canals, 1,609 MSBU (Municipal Service Benefit Units) ponds and 377 non-MSBU ponds have been checked (and will continue to be checked every four weeks). Phone lists have been updated, and all teams have been reminded to double check their PPE and storm gear.
“Every year is different, so we’re always making adjustments,” said Charles. “This year, for instance, we’ve experienced below average rainfall, which has enabled us to eliminate sediment deposits because they’re not under water and we can see them. We’ve taken every precaution to ensure we’re not caught off guard.”
As you prepare for hurricane season, know that Orange County is performing year-round maintenance to ensure it is prepared for if and when a storm hits the region. You can assist by calling Orange County 311 if you notice neighborhood ponds or lakes with high water levels or roadway flooding.