The first major winter storm of the season blew through the area over the past week, bringing high winds and steady rain. There were record winds that caused havoc throughout Riverbank and the surrounding areas. The City of Riverbank’s Public Works Superintendent Michael Riddell and his team had some long days during the storm but managed to keep up.
The blustery winter storm hit the area last week with wind gusts around 40 to 50 mph throughout the city. The high winds set the tone for the steady rain that would follow. Some of the damage included fences knocked down, downed trees, damaged power lines, debris and trash moved around and with the steady rain, there was flooding in some areas.
“We were fortunate enough that the wind started before the rain, typically if you go the other way around where it rains enough to get the ground saturated then the winds pick up, that is when you have a lot of trees coming down,” stated Riddell. “We were a little bit fortunate in that aspect; not that we didn’t have trees coming down because we did.”
Riddell explained that the City of Riverbank does not have ownership of the trees. The residents are responsible for the trees that are placed throughout neighborhoods and even some in areas like Crossroads that are in the landscape and lighting district. The Public Works department assists with removing debris including trees if they are obstructing the roadway. They have pump stations throughout town that they have to monitor as well.
There was close to four inches of rain over the two-and-a-half days of the storm. This caused flooding in some neighborhoods and other areas in Riverbank.
“On the second night we got right to the brink where we had everything, all of our storage ponds were full,” said Riddell. “We were pumping just as hard as we could go. We caught a break when it quit raining. We got right to the edge on that one. We were able to recover.”
The break in the rain on the second night of the storm allowed the public works team to catch up and prevent flooding throughout town and water from reaching people’s homes. The crews worked approximately 20 hours each day with only a four hour break to recharge. Although the small staff of 10 had been at half capacity due to COVID, everyone was called into action for the storm. The workers were being swapped out to relieve each other. This is the first week that the crew will be at full staff since the reduction due to COVID.
“All in all we didn’t fair too bad,” noted Riddell. “The guys were also going out and making sure the grates were clear. That is the thing with the wind, the debris coming down all collects on that grate on that drain enclosure that in turn plugs it up. They were out there in their rain gear, rubber boots and rake trying to clear the grates.”
The winter storm caused some issues including a report of a tree that fell on a car and an evergreen tree that toppled but missed a house. Some awnings were turning into parachutes with the strong winds and some residents dealt with fences that were blown down along with some power outages.
“It is our job; that is what we do,” added Riddell about the hard work and long hours. “I’ve got some people here that are very dedicated. This is not only the city they work for but also the city they live in. So they will do whatever it takes to make sure the city is taken care of to protect the public.”
Public Works has recovered from the storm and are ready for the next one. To which Riddell asks homeowners to help prevent the streets from flooding they can help by clearing the storm drains in front of their homes if they notice the water building up.
He remarked, “If they see a bunch of debris preventing that drain from taking water, grab a rake and push it into the street away from the drain enclosure so the water can move. They would help us out tremendously if they would do that.”
And on Tuesday’s Groundhog Day it was reported that Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow which means six more weeks of winter on the horizon.