On Friday, four people died in flash flooding in Pittsburgh. Those deaths were preventable as the road that they were on is a known flood basin and the road most likely had blocked storm drains.
Storm drains, especially drains at the bottom of a collection area will get blocked up with dirt, sand, leaves, sticks and other debris that are swept downhill in regular rain storms. Blocking a drain means the water either has no where else to go, or other parts of the drainage system are stressed more than they should be. There are four options to dealing with storm drains.
- Routinely have people poke at the holes in the drain to remove debris. This is my daughter’s favorite solution as it is fun and a toddler can do it. However, it is a short term fix as it pushes debris into the drainage pipes.
- Send around a “muck-sucker” truck with a crew to clean the drain and drain pipe by sucking up the debris into the back of the truck. This is a recurring need, but a much longer and more expensive solution than #1.
- Regular street cleaning to minimize the debris that is on a road. Street cleaning does not remove the problem, but it stretches out the time between either the poke or suck cleaning methods.
- Do nothing but hope.
The municipal authorities and governments responsible for the chunk of road in question are severely cash constrained. The city of Pittsburgh is effectively broke, and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has been deferring maitenance since before I was born. Their choice was minimal street cleaning and lots of hoping.
Austerity and the failure to provide decent public services (street cleaning and drain maitenance) helped kill those four people on Friday.