Small army of storm fighters work to protect private property

In major rain events, a small army of little known storm fighters work to protect private property in their hamlets, towns, cities and counties.

Two San Rafael Department of Public Works crew members we met today and they constitute one of eight roving teams who roam their territories every day in search of current or future problems.

When it's raining, like it has been for the last few days, these crews go to the city's twelve pumping stations, where they muck out the debris several times a day. Otherwise the powerful high capacity pumps could not lift the water high enough to pump it into the Bay.

"We're still, knowing what we went through last year, making sure that the storm drain systems are clean," said San Rafael Public Works Department's Mark Wright.

For a city like San Rafael, the pumping stations are the top priority. In just two hours, crews removed a five foot by 10 foot, three-foot-tall pile of muck and junk gathered up against just one of those drains.

During heavy rains they're here literally every hour, because if they're not, we'll have flooding. It's also becoming much more high tech. "This is the first year we've a used a storm water app where we can track what we're removing from the headwalls and catch basins," said Mr. Wright.

The roving crews target everything from potholes to downed tree removal, from blocked or clogged storm drains to flood management, fire hazards, and the biggest threat of all, landslides.

Last year, San Rafael experienced three major landslides. Mountain View Road wiped out two homes and the area is still has a tarp over it. Another slide on Irwin from last year, also stabilized by tarps, remains a looming threat. In rain, crews also monitor slides frequently, just in case.

"If they identify any problems prior to the storm, we'll address it as soon as possible," said Wright.

It's high time that Public Works Departments finally get the credit they deserve.