Tacoma crews prepared all year for severe weather storms

A severe weather event is in the forecast throughout the Puget Sound. The silver lining to a storm system this big is emergency officials and road crews saw it coming. This foresight gave them time to prepare for the worst.

This includes preparing for urban flooding in communities in Thurston and Pierce counties.

For streets crews in Tacoma, the safe course of action is to treat the forecast as "when it floods," not "if it floods." With the upcoming storm, crews will be all hands on deck at all hours of the day.

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"We’ve already planned to do 12-hour shifts if we need to," said Kerry James, sewer maintenance supervisor for City of Tacoma’s Environmental Services. 

James said his team has been planning for this severe weather season all year. Their areas of focus are approximately 50 trouble spots across Tacoma that are prone to flooding, including a spot near the intersection of 25th and Pacific Ave.

"That is always on the watch during storm season because it can be problematic, and if we have issues at that location, we want to respond," said James.

The city has tips on preparing for inclement weather on its website. It also lists two sandbag fill stations available for free to people help protect property from flooding. The locations are: 

  • Tacoma Asphalt Plant at 3010 Center Street
  • Central Wastewater Treatment Plant at 2301 Cleveland Way, Gate 6

During preparation, Environmental Services’ dispatch center deploys street sweepers to clear leaves and debris from storm drains. This is something James said they could use the public’s help doing.

"Often times you can save a flooded intersection or flooded area simply by removing the debris from on top of the catch basin grades. Most the time you can sweep using a push broom, or you can use a shovel," said James. "If you can do it safely, without injuring yourself. Then it is something you can do to help out."

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The supervisor said severe weather continues growing in intensity across the region. Though crews will do their best to help reduce flooding from this upcoming storm, he said they’re planning to make changes within the department to respond to the increasingly extreme conditions.

"We are working to update our systems and exploring what can be done to augment them or replace them and help to cope with the changing conditions," said James. "We are seeing more intense weather patterns and will probably see more into the future."