Shelter From the Storm: Preparing for El Niño

A developing El Niño system in the Pacific Ocean means a predicted increase in rainfall during the winter and early spring months for California, Nevada, and the Southwest. And while wildfire prevention should rightly be a priority in tinder dry regions in during summer and early fall, communities should take preventative maintenance measures against potential flooding and standing water, which can cause damage to personal property and common areas. Preventative maintenance and general awareness of drainage issues will work to reduce cost and stress when heavy rains hit.

Standing Water

Standing water is the result of poor drainage and replacing natural areas that absorb water with concrete artificial areas. Poorly sloped properties in typically dry environments can also fall victim to standing water on residents’ properties. In addition to creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes, standing water can damage buildings and low-lying grassy areas.

Driveways, Roads, and Lawns

Lawn areas should have a 1.5%–2% slope to facilitate drainage. It may be necessary to add extra topsoil under low points in sod-covered lawns. Installing drainage inlets that connect to the stormwater system is also an option preventing standing water on low-lying lawns. Driveways should have a minimum 2% slope to prevent pooling. Roads should have a .5% slope that drain at collection basins or storm drain. A good rule of thumb is to have all water on roads and driveways dissipate no later than 24 hours after it rains.

Stormwater Systems

Preventative maintenance of detention basins will prevent backup during deluges. The inlet systems should be clear of debris—a simple task to complete. Smaller outlets that at the bottom of detention basins should be inspected during dry spells to ensure trash, dirt, and organic debris are not obstructing these important outlets.  If HOA covenants allow, look into connecting roof spouts directly into to the stormwater system if standing water is a continuous problem.

During a Storm

If a large storm is on the horizon, take preventative measures against the effects of flash flooding, which can cause erosion, property damage, and undo many quality measures taken against standing water issues. If serious flash flooding occurs, remember to stay on high ground and keep vehicles away from high water—especially if it is fast moving.

Use sand bags to slow the flow of water and divert it away from low-lying areas and homes. Additionally, placing sandbags upstream from drains can help prevent debris from blocking drainage inlets, and can even the flow of water across a larger area—all which helps prevent storm drains from becoming overwhelmed.

For communities that are unaccustomed to wet weather, these simple preventative maintenance solutions can ensure residential safety and durability despite the rain.