“It was a lot of rain, consistent heavy rain for an extended period of time that was longer than what we are normally faced with. In the past, labeling a storm as atmospheric rain meant a 12-hour period. The last one was 36 hours of hard consistent rain.”
Daniel Whitlock, Acting Operations and Maintenance Manager at the Collections System Division for the Wastewater Enterprise at the SFPUC, explains that the October 24 storm was different.
“Many people experienced what an atmospheric river looks and feels like for the very first time. With climate change, heavy storms, such as these atmospheric rivers, have resulted in a lot of rainwater falling onto streets at once. Intense storms could also mean a greater risk of overwhelming the sewer system.”
Have You Ever Experienced Damage on Your Property Due to Heavy Rains? Apply for the SFPUC’s Floodwater Grant with up to $100k Reimbursement
Join us for a FREE webinar on Wednesday, November 17th, 5:30 p.m. -6:30 p.m. (PST) to learn how to qualify, apply for the grant, hear about example projects you can potentially do on your property: install a backflow preventer (if you ever had sewage backing up onto your property when it rains), flood barriers on your doorways, sump pumps, and more.
A word of advice from someone who is preparing for the rain all yearlong: “Take these storms a little more seriously than you have in the past,” exclaims Whitlock. “These storms are delivering. Managing the outcome of these storms is a partnership with the community and by working together, we can make sure every resource is being used to make sure San Francisco is as resilient as possible. Be proactive and prepared for the unpredictable weather ahead.”
Prepare for the Next Storm
“We are constantly trying to improve our predictions on the rain forecast to help deploy the right resources. We are anticipating less frequent, though heavier systems to become more common. Property owners should prepare by clearing their gutters, making sure their sewer laterals are free and clear on their property,” explained Whitlock.
Don’t Pour Grease Down Your Sink
“If a sewer lateral has a grease problem, during dry weather, the pipe would be open and clear and flowing. But as soon as rainwater goes into the pipe, the pipe would start running full without having enough capacity, and that’s when a sewage back-up or flooding can occur on the streets or inside a property.”
As we have seen recently, when heavy storms hit heavily paved San Francisco, all that water has few places to go, causing runoff that can overwhelm our sewer system. By 2050, through capital projects, grant programs and the City’s Stormwater Management Ordinance, the SFPUC has a goal to capture 1 billion gallons of stormwater using green infrastructure. Improving stormwater management and flood resilience across San Francisco is a partnership between government and residents, like you. Find out what steps you can take at sfpuc.org/rainreadysf.