With experience comes knowledge and MWI has some hurricane flood control tips to share. Pump companies can learn many lessons from severe weather events. This helps make the recovery more effective and efficient the next time a hurricane threatens to strike.
MWI President, Dana Eller has been involved in disaster recovery after many serious hurricanes throughout the Atlantic Gulf Coast. With each severe weather event, many lessons were learned that helped prepare his company for the next disaster.
Fuel may not be available
Maria was a deadly Category 5 Hurricane that demolished Dominica, St. Croix, and Puerto Rico in September 2017. “No one could get fuel for weeks in South Florida and most of the gas stations did not have generators,” Eller remembers. “Now they do, but in areas that are not as prepared, getting fuel is a challenge. This includes gas for your employees to get to job sites, for service and also getting the equipment fueled.”
Make sure your equipment will work
This requires regular maintenance, Eller explained. “Sometimes our pumps sit in places where they may not have been used for a long time. Then there is a flood. We get many requests for pump repairs post storm because the equipment hasn’t been running regularly or been maintained properly. It’s better to make sure it will work before a storm hits. If you have emergency equipment that is sitting in standby, and it isn’t properly maintained, it can be an issue. Without maintenance, the diesel fuel system will breed potential algae in the system which can impair the pump. In Louisiana and other states some of the pumps are fueled with natural gas which doesn’t have those issues.”
Use diesel-powered equipment
“If the power goes out, you can’t get power to an electric-powered pump to remove the water,” Eller explained. “So it is very important to use diesel-driven equipment. Power is a huge thing. In some cases, stormwater basins are powered on electricity, and they don’t have backup generators. Diesel is generally the way to go.”
Some companies keep generators on hand to power pumps when electricity is not available. MWI Pumps builds Hydraflo™ stormwater pumps that include both diesel and electric motors on the same frame. When electricity is lost, the diesel engine starts automatically. Of course, be sure the diesel tanks are filled to the top before the storm makes landfall.
Sometimes you need more pumps than you have
When Hurricane Katrina left New Orleans under water, MWI built a 20,000 sq. ft. facility to manufacture enough pumps to handle the dewatering needs. “Our temporary pumps pumped out 80% of the floodwater until the city got their main pumps back up,” Eller said. “We had about 30 to 40 pumps there, and we built them all in 90 days. It was a fun challenge. We had machinists and millwrights come in and build the pumps. They worked three shifts for three months to get the equipment built to ship to New Orleans.”
Understand where the water needs to be pumped before the storm makes landfall
“Customers call and want us to pump the water out, but they don’t know where to pump it,” Eller explained. “It’s important to know in advance where the pump needs to be installed and where the water will be pumped. There must be a plan. It sounds obvious, but customers really need to be prepared with an answer to those questions. They should know where their low-lying flood zones are located. They should know where the emergency temporary pumps should be installed and where to pump it to. If the best place to pump it out is inaccessible, this is also a problem.”
Generally, in South Florida, the excess stormwater pumps into a canal or river. Permanent pump stations depend on canals being drained, maintained and dredged. “Pumps can’t magically send all the water down a canal that has tree limbs and debris in it,” Eller said. “They must maintain their sumps and their drainage systems. If not, pumps won’t help a whole lot after the fact. Many stormwater lift stations have trash racks, but they can also get clogged when you need them the most. There may be several feet of weeds up against the intake screens. Sometimes this will cause a pump to fail.”
Experience is key when time is of the essence
Eller emphasized that most cities that are responsible for their stormwater systems are conscious of these lessons and suggestions. However a city with less experience of natural disasters could be forced to learn these lessons the hard way.
“We have extremely low turnover in our company. Therefore our emergency pump service teams have a lot of experience helping cities recover from severe storms. This gives us a great advantage when it comes to operating quickly, safely and efficiently.”