Florida FloodingThe rainy season in Florida can provide many challenges for residential communities. Any resident who has experienced a heavy rain event, including a tropical storm or hurricane, understands that it only takes a partial blockage in a street drain or malfunctioning storm water outfall to jeopardize the safety and well-being of the entire community. Keeping a community drainage system in good working order is a vital and necessary responsibility for residential communities.

In October 2011, a portion of the Lake Worth Drainage District experienced the outer rain-bands from Hurricane Rina. Formed in the western Caribbean Sea, the storm track moved toward the Yucatan Peninsula. Palm Beach County was never under a storm watch or warning, but “Rina The Rainmaker” produced an unexpected 11.5 inches of rainfall in the southern portion of the District.

During the event, the District’s Storm Team was out in full force monitoring canal elevations, making adjustments as needed and responding to calls for assistance. In the early morning hours the District received a call from a community leader explaining that flooding was eminent in his community. A Storm Team member was immediately deployed to the site and determined there was no positive discharge from the community lake into the District canal. An attempt was made to provide relief by opening the community’s control structure but the wheel mechanism was obstructed and in the closed position.

With the rain still falling and no outlet for the storm water this community was facing a real emergency; a flood was imminent!  Upon closer inspection the Storm Team member noticed “basketball” shaped objects in the control structure. After wading into the lake, the Storm Team member removed more than 30 coconuts from inside the control structure, which provided enough free flow of water to prevent a flooding incident.

Events similar to “Rina the Rain Maker” are not unique occurrences. Many residential communities have faced similar emergencies due to obstructions in their drainage systems. It might not be coconuts from surrounding trees, but yard waste, plastic garbage bags, debris, or broken drainage systems that have caused similar situations. Communities should be proactive and inspect drainage systems for potential obstructions prior to approaching storms.

By Rosemary Rayman, Lake Worth Drainage District