The aftermath of a big storm in Florida seems like it should be hard to forget; blue roofs, piles of yard debris waiting to be picked up, lack of light, air conditioning or clean water. But those memories fade as things calm down and we get back to normal. For many Floridians, this calm after the storm can last for several years.
The last major hurricane to hit our area was Wilma in October 2005. Over time, people tend to forget unpleasant experiences. Some residents are new to the area and may never have experienced a severe storm or hurricane before. For these reasons many residents can be lulled into complacency and may procrastinate from their emergency planning.
But you never know when the calm before the storm will end. South Florida is known for not only tropical storms and hurricanes but also torrential downpours from unexpected thunderstorms that can happen any time of the year. For example, in January 2014, over 15 inches of rain fell in a localized area in just a couple of hours causing major flooding, damage to property and tragically the loss of life.
It is vital that residents should make reasonable preparations for self-sufficiency all year long. That includes re-checking and refilling essential supplies, such as an emergency food stockpile, storage containers for water, flashlights and other emergency items. Residents also should have an evacuation plan in place, with contingencies for pets and mobility-challenged family members. And, they should make sure that insurance policies are up to date and that relevant documents are complete and easy to find.
With luck, our area will make it to the end of the 2023 hurricane season unscathed. However, it is only a matter of time when luck will run out and the value of year-round preparation will become staggeringly obvious. A good resource for information about planning for various types of emergencies can be found at www.ready.gov.
Throughout the year the Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) is available to assist residents, board associations and property managers with understanding the operation and maintenance of the drainage system within their neighborhood and the important role they have in providing effective flood control for the community. LWDD Field Representatives are each assigned a specific area within the LWDD boundary to provide this assistance. But when the wind starts to blow and rain pours, it’s all hands-on deck! The LWDD staff’s focus switches from day-to-day tasks to storm response. During this time there is less opportunity for staff to address the public’s education or outreach needs. So don’t be this guy:
This guy mistakenly assumes it is LWDD’s role to open and close the association’s discharge control structure in response to rainfall. The operation and maintenance of the discharge control structure is a coordinated function between LWDD and the community. It is the community’s responsibility to open and close the structure in accordance with LWDD’s instructions/authorization.
This guy will call LWDD staff during the storm requesting to be included in the email distribution list. Staff will do their best to accommodate this request. However, please take time to do this before the start of storm season on June 1. Your community association may pre-designate who should be contacted for emergency alerts and instructions. This registration can be found at www.lwdd.net/authorization-contacts.
This guy doesn’t maintain the drainage infrastructure within the community. He incorrectly assumes that LWDD staff will come out to his community and inspect and make necessary repairs throughout the year. The drainage infrastructure within the community is the sole responsibility of the association. Drainage infrastructure may include items like stormwater ponds, underground pipes, discharge control structures, swales and street drains.
This guy doesn’t keep up with vegetative removal and wonders why his neighborhood streets are flooding. Debris blocking the grate of a street drain can quickly create a localized flooding issue for a neighborhood. Unkept landscaping can topple over in high winds, damaging buildings, cars and injury to residents. Depending on where vegetation lies, blockage to drainage flow can occur. Watch this short video that demonstrates a real-life street flooding event at https://youtu.be/d5vMXatzqVc.
This guy is uninformed and doesn’t know where the key to the community’s discharge control structure is located and has never tried to open the operable mechanism. He may not have the tools needed to access the structure if located below ground. He may break the operating portion of the structure due to lack of experience. This guy will find it near impossible to resolve the issues during the weather event.
Before the wind begins to blow and rain begins to pour, visit LWDD’s Storm Response webpage at www.lwdd.net/storm-response for the information you need to keep you from becoming this guy.
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 and localized flooding.
Localized flooding from these types of severe weather events can be exacerbated because of improperly maintained drainage systems. Residential communities and businesses can help mitigate the impacts from severe storms. 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 ponds. Proper maintenance of these facilities will ensure unobstructed flow of stormwater and fully operational equipment.
Additionally, residential communities and businesses with operable discharge control structures can request authorization from the Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) to open these structures prior to the storm. Lowering pond levels prior to the rain event provides additional storage in ponds for excess stormwater. The LWDD recommends establishing a Drainage Committee whose role is to provide for the maintenance and operation of the community or business’s drainage system. Drainage Committees may consist of board members, residents and/or property managers. All members of the Drainage Committee should register with the LWDD on its website at www.lwdd.net/storm-response. This registration process ensures the LWDD knows who to contact and where to send important weather alerts and instructions.
During the storm, LWDD personnel will monitor canal elevations and make operational adjustments to major flood control structures as needed. Depending on the volume and duration of rainfall, expect streets, sidewalks, driveways and lawns to flood. These areas are designed to function 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. However, always follow emergency management instructions if told to evacuate.
It may be tempting to explore outside, for your safety and to keep roadways clear for emergency response vehicles, stay indoors until told otherwise by authorities. Do not try to walk in flooded areas. Flood water may be unsanitary and there may be downed power lines or other hazards that are not visible. Do not try to drive through flooded areas. Vehicles can become unstable and float in just inches of water. Additionally, canal banks may fail, and roadways may be impacted by sinkholes. The location of roads and sidewalks may not be discernible from canals due to the sheeting effect of flood water and life-threatening accidents can occur.
No system, no matter how well designed, is 100% flood proof but collaborating with communities, businesses and other water management agencies, LWDD can help keep you and your property safe from potential flooding.
Following a severe storm event, the Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) conducts immediate post-storm assessments, inspecting water control structures, canal channels and the canal rights-of-way for vegetative debris with the potential to negatively impact drainage.
The public can assist via our Citizen Damage Reporting System located on our website at https://www.lwdd.net/storm-response. The user will be asked a few questions and a map will be provided to help identify the location of the incident. These public reports as well as LWDD staff assessments are reviewed and prioritized for vegetation removal. Priority is based on the following criteria:
- High Priority – vegetation is in the water and threatening drainage
- Medium Priority – vegetation is blocking the right-of-way and encumbering access or vegetation is significantly leaning over the waterway and could be a potential future threat to drainage
- Low Priority – vegetation located on the LWDD right-of-way that may partially reduce access
Depending on the severity of the storm damage it may take several weeks before crews can address low priority incidents. Private property owners that wish to trim vegetation that has fallen or is leaning on their property from the LWDD right-of-way may do so at their discretion and expense. If access to the LWDD right-of-way is necessary to trim or remove vegetation, the property owner should receive prior approval from the LWDD for temporary access.
Any material from trimming or tree removal by the property owner must be properly disposed of by the resident or if applicable the contractor performing the work. Keep in mind that it is unlawful to place any debris in the canal or on the right-of-way in anticipation that LWDD will remove the material. Unlawful dumping will be reported to the authorities.
If fallen debris has damaged personal property, the individual property owner should contact their insurance company to submit a claim. The LWDD will not directly reimburse property owners for damage caused by acts of mother nature.
After a major storm event, debris clean-up is paramount to getting back to normal and the LWDD is committed to quick removal of hazardous flood prone debris for the safety of our residents.
Contact the LWDD
Lake Worth Drainage District
13081 S. Military Trail
Delray Beach, FL 33484
Phone: (561) 498-5363
Fax: (561) 495-9694
Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Monday thru Friday except Holidays.