Storm patrols respond during El Niño

When weather experts first forecast this year’s powerful El Niño winter, the City of San Diego began preparing.

“We looked at our operating procedures a little more in depth,” said Daniel Orozco, an electrical supervisor with the City of San Diego’s Storm Water Division. “We knew what we had to do as far as upgrading our pump stations, which we have done.”

Work to the pump stations, 14 in total, was extensive.

“We’ve upgraded pumps, we’ve upgraded pump valves and all of the piping systems,” Orozco said. City crews also added eight telemetry alarm systems, which immediately notifies staff when a pump is triggered.

“We get a call on our personal phone, letting us know there’s a problem,” he said. “Then we can respond in a timely manner and hopefully resolve the issue before there’s any flooding.”

To respond to storm-related emergencies affecting residents, the department made plans to mobilize its “storm patrol.”

When a storm arrives, most personnel and resources within the Transportation & Storm Water Department are moved to storm patrol duty and work 16-hour shifts.

“We all have our storm areas, we have our maps of all the critical drains. We send two-person crews out and they evaluate the drains to make sure everything is flowing freely,” said Public Works Supervisor Wayne Van Tassel. “We have crews that go out and remove palm fronds, any debris from an overnight rain. There may be sand and debris and other stuff in the gutter and storm drains and we make sure all that is clear.”

Some of the work is done by hand, other times it is done by machine. That’s why, in addition to the pump stations, the City has portable pumps for backup.

According to Orozco, there’s a two-fold purpose to having a “storm patrol”.

“Our priorities are property to and life,” he said.

Resources:

Find more information on the City’s Transportation & Storm Water Department.

To report downed trees or flooding during a storm, call Public Works Dispatch at (619) 527-7500, or file a service request online, here.

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