Behind the Scenes of Storm Work

Behind the Scenes of Storm Work title=
Behind the Scenes of Storm Work
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Source: City of Santa Barbara

The City’s Public Works Department is divided into seven divisions. While most have a role in storm preparedness and response, the Streets Operations & Infrastructure Management Division has a special role to ensure public safety and protect our infrastructure. The Streets Division prepares for storms, patrols City streets during storm events, fights floods, and repairs flood damage. Preparation begins months before the rainy season arrives. 


The Streets Division has crews that routinely inspect every inlet and catch basin connected to our vast system of storm drains. These inspections determine if our system is clean and able to support storm flows as designed. If debris is found in pipes or catch basins, the crew will vacuum and clean out the debris. If other blockages are found, Streets staff will make the necessary repairs to get that system working properly. Sometimes that includes a complete replacement or redesign of the system. The goal is to have all of our storm drain infrastructure ready for any storm event the City will face. The Streets Division also must make sure that the Laguna Pump Station is ready to operate, and that the Laguna Channel and all of our creeks are free of debris that could cause flooding. 

Storm Patrol

Prior to a storm event, Streets crews are divided into eight maintenance sections, with two crews assigned to each section. Other staff are assigned to operate critical systems, like the Laguna Pump Station, while others are assigned the responsibility of heavy equipment operation if needed. 

During the event, crews will patrol their sections, providing an active response to any problems that we may encounter: mud slides, debris flows, plugged storm drain inlets, failed storm pipes, sink holes in City streets, and the accumulation of debris on our bridges. The crews carry all the signage needed to close streets and warn the public of flooded areas and other hazards. 

Flood Fighting

The Streets Division is a First Responder to emergencies during rain events. Streets crews work closely with public safety personnel to respond to life-threatening events, providing heavy equipment support to clear roads or provide emergency egress for the public. There are times that crews will be actively engaged in protecting property or lives by diverting water and debris flows with sandbags, K-rails, and other devices. They also move debris from mud slides to disposal sites.


After a major rain event, crews begin the cleanup and repair of our public right-of-way. This includes patching potholes, repairing sink holes, replacing storm drains, repairing washed-out sections of street, and clearing debris from the roadway. Sometimes fallen trees break up sidewalks, curbs, and gutters that have to be replaced. In some cases, during major storms, crews will work with contractors to remove and dispose large amounts of debris, including mud, rocks, trees, and wrecked cars. Crews must be prepared to face any number of adverse conditions and respond calmly and effectively. 

Storm preparation and response is just one of the many responsibilities of the Streets Division. Although these are not everyday tasks, they are a critical part of the service provided by City Public Works. 

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ChrisL Feb 13, 2019 10:48 AM
Behind the Scenes of Storm Work

Did my own research and guess what?...County Public Works was the straightest path to the CalTrans phone number you can use (not CalTrans' own website). So thanks, Michelle, for the number and the actual closure location right now, which is Live Oak Camp from SB and Lake Cachuma from Santa Ynez. The CalTrans Roadyard number is 568-1250. From there they transfer to Jim, Public Information Officer. He says Edhat will get a press release Friday but it still looks like "several weeks" before 154 opens again. So TAGDES is half-right though snarky enough to ignore.

tagdes Feb 13, 2019 12:19 PM
Behind the Scenes of Storm Work

Yes, we have always been gracious and helpful in spite of all your jokes about our leaning on shovels all day and non jokes of us squandering away all of your money for our retirement.

tagdes Feb 13, 2019 12:09 PM
Behind the Scenes of Storm Work

I'm leaning towards more than 1/2 right. It took me less than 10 seconds to type in caltrans santa barbara and bingo all the info , yes their local number 568-1250 was right there on the right side of the screen. One click and no bothering my former co workers at the road yard who as you so eloquently stated only directed you to the correct source.

Potif Feb 13, 2019 11:53 AM
Behind the Scenes of Storm Work

CHRISL - Thank you for the information! I figured that the county would at least be able to give the correct number to call, since they are (even indirectly) involved. And, most of the people at the county are gracious enough to simply give what information they have.

a-1566453588 Feb 12, 2019 03:52 PM
Behind the Scenes of Storm Work

How about some Hiway 154 pictures because I head it's a serious mess not to reopen for months.

Potif Feb 12, 2019 10:17 PM
Behind the Scenes of Storm Work

TAGDES - I know it seems impossible, but I have heard of CALTRANS. That does not mean that they are the only group involved with, or responsible (totally or partly) for what is happening on 154. The way you have worded that, I suspect that you are surprised to learn that we are not all idiots. NOBODY knew what I was talking about, when I called various agencies to ask about a simple road work sign, which I had seen had nearly caused accidents from people trying to go around it. The 'obvious' people to call didn't know. It was leftover when they took the fencing down which was put up for Halloween around Isla Vista, on El Colegio Road.

tagdes Feb 12, 2019 09:19 PM
Behind the Scenes of Storm Work

Sure the County might have some idea...but why would you not call the one who actually knows... have you people really never heard of CALTRANS. Their signs, orange maintenance trucks and white engineering trucks are all over the State.

Potif Feb 12, 2019 08:17 PM
Behind the Scenes of Storm Work

The county possibly has some idea about when it might be opened, since it affects county transportation. Or at least, would know where to direct a call. I had to call at least four different entities to get a 'road work ahead' sign moved out of the middle of a roadway (left turn lane) that had been present for about 2 weeks after the road work had been finished.

tagdes Feb 12, 2019 07:27 PM
Behind the Scenes of Storm Work

You might not want to since they don't know because 154 is a State Highway. If you're new in town or can't read a map try Google before having people bother the County. They have enough of their own to deal with.

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