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Troubles flood in with first big rain storm
The streets were flooded in downtown Turlock on Wednesday, following the citys first big rain storm of the season. Much of the flooding was caused by blocked gutters and storm drains filled with piles of leaves. - photo by CARA HALLAM/The Journal

Although skies were clear and blue on Thursday, the first big rain storm of the season just 24-hours prior threw Turlock residents into a frenzy as many streets became flooded throughout the city.

Much of the flooding came from the heaps of leaves that have built up throughout the fall, causing blockage with the City’s storm drain system. Golden State Boulevard experienced heavy flooding near Mi Casa Mexican restaurant, in addition to Lander Avenue, Geer Road and Minnesota Avenue, Dow and West Tuolumne Road, and many others.

“The first significant rain storm of the year is always challenging because of the leaves which tend to block the gutters and storm drains,” said Michael Cooke, director of municipal services. “We had nine field staff from the municipal services and public facilities maintenance departments stay behind after work to assist with various localized flooding problems. Also, three office staff worked late to dispatch calls.”

While the City’s municipal service department worked hard to eradicate many of the drainage problems caused by the sudden rain storm, other services such as the Stanislaus Regional Transit bus line also found themselves affected by the flooded streets.

According to a dispatcher with StaRT, many of the bus routes running through Turlock were running behind schedule due to the heavy rain.

“[The rain] can slow us down just like any other motorist driving on the street,” said Scott Medeiros, the city’s transit planner. “Also, some of our bus stops do not have a shelter overhead, so that could create issues for passengers as they wait for the bus to arrive. Other than that, we didn’t hear of anything like accidents or detours specific to the transit service.”

There were plenty of accidents happening in Turlock as the rain fell. The Turlock Police attended to five collisions during a four hour period when the wet weather was at its peak.

During the storm, Turlock municipal services field staff put out barricades to help clear blocked storm drains and gutters. While there was some localized street flooding, the storm water quickly dissipated once the storm passed through, says Cooke.

“As you know, Turlock is very flat and has no natural water courses, so storm drainage is always a challenge,” said Cooke. “Over the years, the City Council has made significant investments in improving the City’s storm drain system. The more extensive and persistent flooding of 20 years ago is a thing of the past.”

Cooke shared that the City continues to make upgrades to the existing storm drain system to help improve conditions, including a new storm line that is currently being installed near Turlock High School.

Much of the City’s successes with improving the flooded conditions come from the information passed along by Turlock citizens who call the City to report flooding in the streets.

“I’d like to thank our citizens for calling in about problem areas,” said Cooke. “Further, I’d really like to commend all city staff who worked diligently to deal with those problem areas. As we prepare for the next storm, I’d like to encourage citizens to rake up their leaves and place them in the green garbage cart.”

Flooding in residential areas can be avoided by the help of community members who properly deal with the leaves that build in their neighborhoods, says Cooke.

“If you place leaves in the street for collection, please make sure that the gutter is clear. Also, if you have a storm drain inlet near your house, you can help the neighborhood by making sure it’s cleared of leaves and debris,” said Cooke. “Lastly, some people had their sprinklers on last night and this morning. I would encourage all residents to conserve our precious water by turning off your landscape sprinklers until the spring.”

The Turlock Irrigation District also recommends a few preventative measures during the storm season to help ensure public safety while concurrently preventing weather-caused power outages.

TID recommends that trees with heavy branches near power lines are trimmed prior to the arrival of storms, while also storing lightweight items indoors in the event of high winds.

Additionally, a storm readiness kit consisting of flashlights and extra batteries can be useful to keep handy, including a battery-operated radio, first aid kit, bottled water and non-perishable foods. If a power line should go down during a storm, residents should stay far away from the lines and never touch them or attempt to clear branches or debris nearby.

Customers who experience power loss longer than five minutes should call TID’s 24-hour service line at 883-8301.