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Water Safety Around Drainage Canals

South Florida is an aquatic playground during hot summer months. The Lake Worth Drainage District’s canal system can appear to be an ideal place to cool-off and swim or spend a day fishing. However, it is important to understand that these inviting waterways can be dangerous.

District canals were not created for recreational use. They are designed to collect and convey stormwater to provide both flood control and water supply for residents and businesses within our boundary. Operation of this flood control system includes large water control structures which when opened can create a sudden change in a canal’s water elevation, as well as strong currents that may not be visible on the water’s surface. This current can catch swimmers and boaters by surprise. If close to an open structure, the undertow can create a strong enough force to pull swimmers and small boats under.

Canal rights-of-way do not have protective barriers, and banks may give way due to the soft sandy soil and rocks below. Once a person is in the water, it can be very difficult to climb out due to the steep side-slope of the canal bank. Depending on the time of day or location of the canal, cries for help may not be heard.

Many invisible dangers and submerged hazards exist in the canals like broken glass, scrap metal, bottles and cans, as well as wild animals. It is not unusual to see alligators, snapping turtles and snakes living in and near canals. Diving into a drainage canal is particularly dangerous because canal depths can vary significantly, and subsurface aquatic vegetation can tangle around extremities.

Stay safe and follow a few simple rules. Do not swim in a canal, instead head to the pool or beach. Keep a safe distance from the canal bank to avoid falling in the waterway. Always stay clear of water control structures. Visit the Drowning Prevention Coalition’s website for more water safety tips at http://discover.pbcgov.org/drowningprevention/.

trees with wind

Before, During & After The Storm

Florida’s hurricane season begins on June 1 and ends November 30. 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 six 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 weather events can produce localized flooding that can be exacerbated by improperly maintained drainage systems.

Residential communities and businesses can help mitigate the impacts from severe storms with a few simple steps. One of the most important steps is the regular inspection and maintenance of drainage infrastructure. Drainage infrastructure can include inlets, discharge control structures, connecting pipes and lakes. Proper maintenance of these facilities will ensure unobstructed flow of stormwater and fully operational equipment. Secondly, residential communities and businesses with operable discharge control structures can request authorization from the Lake Worth Drainage District to open these structures prior to the storm. Lowering lake levels provides additional storage for excess stormwater. The Lake Worth Drainage District recommends establishment of a Drainage Committee whose role is to provide for the maintenance and operation of the community or business’ drainage system. Drainage Committees may consist of board members, residents and/or property managers. All members of the Drainage Committee should register with the Lake Worth Drainage District on its website at www.lwdd.net. This registration process ensures the Lake Worth Drainage District knows who to contact and where to send important weather alerts and instructions.

During the storm event, 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 the weather event. Depending on the volume and duration of rainfall, expect streets, sidewalks, driveways and lawns to flood. These areas are designed to act as secondary detention areas and help to keep water away from homes and businesses. This flooding is temporary and will begin to recede after an event has passed. Using its SCADA Automated System, District personnel will be monitoring canal elevations and making operational adjustments to major flood control structures as needed. This work can be conducted during the storm via wireless mobile devices and provide instantaneous response to changes in water elevations.

It may be tempting to explore outside but stay indoors after the storm. For your safety and to keep roadways clear for emergency response vehicles stay inside until told otherwise by authorities. 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 as little as a few inches of water. Additionally, 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 and life-threatening accidents can occur.

While weather predictions are becoming more sophisticated, forecasters are still unable to predict exactly where a storm will make landfall. The likelihood of flooding depends on several variables such as rainfall volume, ground moisture and local terrain. No system, no matter how well designed, is 100% flood proof. The Lake Worth Drainage District works closely with residential associations, businesses and other water management agencies to help keep you and your property safe from potential flooding.

Hurricane kit for dogs

Hurricane Season Is Only Half Over

Don’t let complacency catch you off-guard 
The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1 and ends November 30. Knowing what actions to take when a hurricane watch or warning is issued by the National Weather Service is vital for your safety. The time to make a plan is before a hurricane watch or warning is issued. The following list provides suggestions on what actions to take as a hurricane approaches the area.
  • Turn on your TV/radio in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first-aid supplies.
  • Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. During disasters, sending text messages is usually more reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.
  • Review your evacuation plan with your family. You may have to leave quickly, so plan ahead.
  • Keep your car in good working condition with the gas tank full.
  • Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans). Anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks).
  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8 inch exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.
  • Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Charge your cellphone so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.
  • If you’re not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home. Let friends and family know where you will be during the storm.
  • Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer.
  • Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
For details on building an emergency kit, methods to protect your home and tips to keep your family safe, visit the American Red Cross website at www.redcross.org.