Storm Debris May Clog Area Ditches
November 01, 2003By CHRISTOPHER SCHNAARS Daily Press
A combination of fallen leaves and debris from Hurricane Isabel could choke drainage ditches and cause flooding in parts of Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson and lower York County, officials say.
Those ditches run alongside roadways and snake through swampy wooded areas crisscrossed by fallen trees. Some of those trees now lie across drainageways, where they trap leaves and mud and slow water flowing through.
Dumping makes the problem timberlands worse. Tires, plywood, a fuel tank and beer bottles lie in or beside drainageways that carry water away from Kiln Creek, Tabb Lakes and other neighborhoods.
“We have to help o timberlands urselves,” said Mike Bossie, chairman of York’s Stormwater Advisory Committee. “The county can only do so much.”
On average, York County is more than 50 feet above sea level but, like other parts of the lower Peninsula, it’s also flat. That hampers rainwater draining away from those areas. Leaves and mud slow down that water even more.
“Afte timberlands r Isabel came dow timberlands n, I think it kind of blew half the leaves off the trees early this year,” said Pat Ray, Hampton’s drainage superintendent.
Some of the blockage comes from upstream, where people dump leaves and grass clippings into ditches near their homes. This can be a bigger problem in Newport News, where residents can pile their leaves near roadway gutters without putting them in plastic bags.
“One of the problems with that is a lot of times they put them in the ditches next to the road and leave them there,” said Steve Land, the city’s wastewater administrator, “and that blocks the drainageways.”
Similar problems occur in Poquoson, said Jonathan Montgomery, director of public works. Residents should put debris as close to the road as possible for pickup, Montgomery said, but keep it out of ditches.
“There’s probably more of a problem with people putting stuff in the ditches than storm debris holding back the water,” he said.
People can help protect drainage systems by keeping trash and debris out of ditches that run through their property, said Lou Lafrenaye, vice chair of the York stormwater committee, and neighborhood associations should check potential choke points in neighborhood drainage systems to make sure they’re not blocked.
Hampton hired contractors to help clear the city’s drainage system of leaves and trees, Ray said, and most major canals and ditches have been cleared. Some paved ditches and other parts of the drainage system damaged by falling trees still need to be repaired, he said, and some problems are waiting to be found.