Fall flooding

Fall floods can cause major inconvenience and accidents for drivers and pedestrians. Homeowners may not be aware that most fall flooding is caused by leaves blocking drainage infrastructure and that they have a part to play in preventing fall flooding.

Street drains are built into city neighborhoods in order to prevent flooding. When leaves collect in gutters drains can become blocked, causing water to back up and “pond.” The ponding can slow or stop traffic and flood yards or homes. Homeowners can do their part by keeping an eye on neighborhood drains to ensure that they are not clogged with leaves and debris. If storm drains appear clogged, homeowners can use a rake or broom to remove the leaves and debris and place into a yard waste bin. If the buildup is too much to handle, try to safely clear a channel to create a path for the runoff and call your city’s drainage problem hotline for help.

Homeowner tips to help prevent fall flooding

Gather and dispose of leaves correctly

When it comes to gathering and disposing leaves there is a right way and a wrong way:

  • Do not blow leaves or clippings into the street or storm drain
  • Sweep patios and drive ways – do not flush leaves away with a hose
  • Gather yard waste into yard waste bins rather than leaving in piles in your yard where debris could blow or wash into city drains
  • Bring yard waste to a landfill once yard waste bins are full

Click here for Whatcom County leaf and yard debris disposal options.

Maintain gutters and downspouts

Homeowners can use the following tips to keep their gutters and downspouts working properly:

  • Roof gutters and downspouts should be cleaned twice each year and checked after a wind or rainstorm
  • Annually inspect rain gutters for leaks or damage
  • Ensure that downspout flows are directed away from your home foundation but within your property line
  • Do not pour water over the edge of a steep hill

Maintain drainage systems

Maintaining the drainage system is an important job to reduce the chance of flooding:

  • Inspect your drainage system on a regular basis
  • An underground drainage system can be professionally inspected with a “video inspect” that reveals any buildup in your pipes
  • If your driveway leads to the street, check to make sure that the drain at the bottom of the slope is clear.
  • If your home is located at the bottom of a hill or cliff, check that that drainage and retaining walls are working at full capacity.

Treat the city’s drainage systems with respect. Never put leaves, debris or grass clippings into city drains, gutters, ravines or ditches. Homeowners should work in conjunction with efforts from city employees to prevent fall flooding.

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