Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season & Community Flood Protection

Is your community ready?

Florida’s hurricane season begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th. Based on historical weather records dating back to the 1950s, a typical season will average 12 tropical storms with sustained winds of at least 39 miles per hour, of which 6 may turn into hurricanes with winds of 74 miles per hour or more. In addition to high winds, hurricanes and tropical storms can bring torrential rainfall. These severe storms can produce localized flooding which may temporarily inundate secondary detention areas including streets, sidewalks, driveways and lawns. This temporary flooding can be exacerbated by poorly maintained community drainage systems which may cause residential buildings to flood.

While weather predictions are becoming more sophisticated, forecasters are still unable to accurately predict where a storm will make landfall. The likelihood of flooding depends on a several variables such as rainfall volume, ground moisture and local terrain. The Lake Worth Drainage District works closely with the South Florida Water Management District and Palm Beach County Emergency Management to manage severe weather events.  Communities must also do their part to help prevent residential flooding.

How can communities prepare for severe storms events?

The most important steps a community can take to prepare for a severe storm event is inspection and maintenance of its drainage infrastructure. Community drainage systems and infrastructure can include inlets, discharge control structures, connecting pipes and lakes. Proper maintenance of these drainage systems ensures unobstructed flow of stormwater and fully operational equipment. Inspection and maintenance of the drainage system is the sole responsibility of the community. However, District staff are available to assist with any questions. On-site visits can also be arranged to discuss the drainage system in detail. 

Community flood preparedness includes:

  • Locating and reviewing the community’s storm plan
  • Identifying the location of discharge control structures, inlets and other drainage infrastructure
  • Inspecting the system, clearing blockages and making needed repairs
  • Testing operable discharge control structures by opening and closing the wheel mechanism
  • Staying informed, and watching the District’s Getting to Know Your Drainage System video for maintenance and operation tips. Click here to watch.

The District recommends that each community establish a Drainage Committee whose role is to provide for the maintenance and operation of the drainage system. Drainage Committees may consist of board members,  residents and/or property managers. All members of the Drainage Committee should register with the District. This registration process ensures the District knows who to contact and where to send important weather alerts and instructions. A simple form to assist in the registration process is available on the District’s website. Click here to download the form.

Community’s use of operable discharge control structures

Stormwater drainage in this region is provided by a three-tiered drainage system: neighborhood drainage systems, the Lake Worth Drainage District secondary canals and the South Florida Water Management District primary canals. Stormwater discharges must be coordinated for each tier at appropriate times and rates. Click here to read more about the regional three-tiered system visit the District’s website.

After a storm event, temporary street flooding is expected until the natural progression of drainage occurs. If flooding is severe and roads are impassable, communities may request to open their operable discharge control structures to increase the rate of stormwater discharge.

Authorization from the District to open structures is mandatory and is only granted for emergency situations and when District canals are at low enough elevations to accept the increased discharge from neighborhood systems. Opening an operable discharge control structure without authorization may put a community in jeopardy as canal water may back-flow into the community’s lakes. Click here to view the procedures for requesting authorization to open an operable discharge control structures.

Understanding what to expect can calm fears

Depending on the volume and duration of rainfall, it is expected that community streets, sidewalks, driveways and lawns may temporarily flood. These areas are designed to act as secondary detention areas. This flooding is temporary and will begin to recede after the event has passed.

Stay indoors during severe storm events. Do not attempt to walk in flooded areas. Flood water may be unsanitary and there may be downed power lines or other hazards that are not visible. Also, do not attempt to drive through flooded areas. Vehicles can become unstable and float in only a few inches of water. Canal banks may fail and roadways may be affected by sinkholes. The location of roads and sidewalks may not be discernible from canals and lakes. To learn more about driving through flooded areas, click here to watch the U.S. National Weather Services Turn Around Don’t Drown public service announcement.

Listen to and follow emergency management instructions via the television or radio and take appropriate actions to keep yourself, family and property safe. In most circumstances, emergency personnel will not be deployed during a severe weather event. District personnel will be monitoring weather conditions, canal elevations and coordinating efforts with other emergency agencies. Appropriate measures will be taken to provide flood relief.

Flood protection does not mean flood proof. No system, no matter how well designed, is 100% flood proof.  If flood water is nearing your home, contact the District’s storm line at 561-498-5363, and press Option 2 to speak to on-call staff or to leave a message. District staff will be dispatched as soon as it is safe to deploy crews. Always call 911 for life-threatening flooding emergencies. 

Control Structure 3

LWDD Plays a Key Role in Water Conservation

Conserving limited water resources while providing comprehensive flood protection

The Lake Worth Drainage District plays a critical role in balancing the water supply needs of both urban and agricultural users by conserving water resources to meet demands, while also providing comprehensive flood control for our ever-growing population.  Florida is fortunate to receive more than 50 inches of rainfall a year on average. A significant amount of rain falls during South Florida’s wet season which typically runs  from June through October, replenishing both surface and groundwater supplies.

Regional groundwater levels must be maintained to supply wellfields for numerous municipal water utilities that deliver water to our homes and businesses, and to prevent the migration of saltwater from the ocean which could permanently contaminate drinking water supplies. During dry periods, groundwater levels tend to slowly recede in response to less rain and high evaporation. When this occurs, water managers look to large regional storage areas including Lake Okeechobee and the Water Conservation Areas as a source of supplemental water. Water from these sources is released into the canal network to raise the level of water in the canals. This water seeps through the sandy soils to recharge the groundwater and return the water table to its normal elevation.

At the same time, when canal elevations reach their peak, excess stormwater must often be discharged to the ocean to avoid flooding. These discharges can impact the natural environment. However, providing adequate drainage to the region is a priority in order to protect human health and safety as well as preventing significant property damage.

Water levels are continuously monitored throughout the District’s 500-mile canal network to maintain sufficient elevations to conserve water for water supply purposes. Depending upon conditions, operational decisions are made to open water control gates and release water to minimize the possibility of flooding, or to hold back water and pump additional flow into the system for water supply purposes. For 100 years, the District has successfully managed our water resources to conserve water and mitigate water supply issues that our region experiences.

flood control

What It Takes To Provide Effective Flood Control

Multi-faceted approach for year-round protection

Lake Worth Drainage District utilizes a four-pronged approach to provide effective flood control for our residents and businesses: operation and maintenance of a water control structures, cleaning and clearing of canals and their associated rights-of-way, permitting of all construction projects within the District’s service area, and outreach and communication with our constituents. A closer look at these four activities provides a better understanding of the significant task the District undertakes in meeting its flood control mission.

Water control structures hold or release water depending on weather conditions and water supply needs. Like all mechanical equipment, the District’s 20 major water control structures and related facilities require maintenance and must be systematically refurbished or replaced. The District annually inspects our flood control infrastructure, and subsequently prioritizes and schedules any necessary repairs or replacement of structures and related facilities.

Effective flood control is also dependent on well-maintained canals and rights-of-way. With more than 500 miles of canals, District staff are consistently cleaning and clearing debris from our waterways and associated rights-of-way. This regular maintenance prevents obstructions to water flow and provides unencumbered access for District staff to perform maintenance and respond during emergencies.

The District’s permitting program also plays a key role in ensuring comprehensive flood control. All constructions projects within the District’s service boundaries require a permit to ensure adequate stormwater drainage design and construction. To ensure unobstructed access to our canal banks, a District permit is also required for right-of-way encroachments including utility lines, culverts, bridges, fences, boat docks and signs.

Education of our local residents and community associations regarding stormwater management and the three-tiered flood control system is the primary focus of the District’s public outreach program. Through our speakers bureau, website, newsletters, and Twitter and Facebook accounts, the District regularly shares information regarding the vital role and shared responsibilities of residents and community associations to ensure successful flood control.

For 100 years, the District has operated and maintained our regional water management system to ensure effective and efficient flood control for southeastern Palm Beach County.

Containment Boom

Floating Barriers Increase Efficiency

District enhances efforts to capture and remove debris

The District routinely maintains more than 50 containment booms throughout its 500-mile canal network. To enhance efforts to capture and remove floating debris, the District has recently replaced and upgraded more than half of these booms.

Containment booms are floating ribbon-like structures that span the canal cross-section and extend approximately one foot both above and below the water surface. As water flows through a canal or as winds blow across the water’s surface, floating debris will move through the canal network. The booms serve as a physical barrier, “corralling” the debris while allowing water to continue to flow unimpeded.

Installed at critical locations in order to concentrate floating vegetation and other debris, the booms allow District vegetation management crews to more effectively collect, treat and dispose of the material. This approach significantly reduces the quantity of undesirable floating material that would otherwise move downstream during excessive rainfall events and flow into ecologically sensitive water bodies or adjacent neighborhoods.

Without the use of containment booms, District vegetation management crews would have to traverse every mile of its 500-mile canal network to find, treat or remove floating vegetation and other debris before it could move downstream and become a nuisance. Over the next year, the District will continue its efforts to replace and upgrade the remaining booms in order to realize additional efficiencies and costs savings associated with time and materials necessary to maintain the canals.   Click here for more information regarding the District’s canal maintenance activities.