I Found A Drain And Drained A Flooded Street During A Storm
November 24, 2019 3:57 PM   Subscribe

A person going by the name post 10 clears blocked storm drains and posts unexpectedly satisfying videos of doing so to YouTube. posted by plastic_animals (46 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is the best thing. I have an obsession with stormwater management. While I would prefer retaining stormwater and reducing runoff (whether via percolation ponds or pervious pavers) to aid groundwater aquifer recharge, as long as we are managing stormwater through drains, they might as well function correctly.

That said, if it's a combined sewer and stormwater system, maybe giant pools of stormwater are actually a blessing in disguise.

NYC and other cities have combined systems "stormwater from street drains and sewage from homes and businesses flow through the same underground mains to the wastewater treatment plant." :
Overflows occur when rainfall amounts reach more than half-an-inch, city Department of Works Superintendent Rob Perry said. Water overwhelms the system, the wastewater treatment plant can’t handle the volume and untreated sewage spills into one of several outflows, such as the North Bay....

About 2.24 million gallons of untreated sewage overflowed after heavy rain on April 16 — the most at one time so far in 2018, according to a report from the Hudson Department of Public Works.

“That means that for every person who flushed a toilet during that storm, raw sewage was going directly into the river,” Shapley said.
2018 article from NYTimes:
New York City is calling on residents in parts of Brooklyn and Queens to cut back their water use during rainstorms by postponing showers and other chores — even waiting to flush toilets.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:34 PM on November 24, 2019 [6 favorites]


I feel like drivers don’t deserve this guy.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:46 PM on November 24, 2019 [19 favorites]


I do this, too, often in winter when drains are d by snow or slush. Never thought of taking videos.
posted by haiku warrior at 4:49 PM on November 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


This guy has figured out the art of living.
posted by biogeo at 4:54 PM on November 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


Hi, I'm a volunteer with my State's emergency response agency for storms and floods. These are a) incredibly satisfying to watch and b) about as hazardous to life as you can get when it comes to flood water, maybe only exceeded by driving a car into flooding. (It takes about 15cm of water to move a hatchback). Most of the deaths that happen in flooding come about from people entering flood water, and it's either when they underestimate the force of moving water, it gets faster or deeper unexpectedly, or the body of water for whatever reason changes behaviour, reversing or altering flow.

Each of these videos involves a 'strainer'—some kind of grille or fence creating a physical barrier to water debris—and getting in or close to one puts you at risk, if the water environment suddenly changes, of it pulling you (and any debris behind you) and sticking you there. It's impossible to see potholes, foot-catching snags, subsurface damage, or undercutting-erosion through opaque water. That's not even to mention things like contaminants (fuel, chemicals, human and human waste). I can't watch the video of him walking into the culvert pipe.

If you want to die, stand in floodwater and unclog a drain.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:00 PM on November 24, 2019 [82 favorites]


To whoever is watching these and thinking about a career in civil engineering: do it! It’s awesome!
posted by beandip at 5:17 PM on November 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


See also this previous post on drain-cleaning videos.
posted by asperity at 5:48 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


I can’t watch these because I’m 95% sure the guy has no PPE and nobody trained to help him if things go badly. I would be on the edge of my seat imagining all the potential horrific outcomes.

I’m glad the drains are getting unclogged. But the potential price here is too damn high.
posted by bilabial at 6:11 PM on November 24, 2019 [13 favorites]


That's certainly satisfying.

San Francisco has a program called "Adopt a Drain" where the city encourages people to sign up to watch and clear their local drains, and provides some supplies.
posted by alexei at 7:04 PM on November 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


When I was a farmer in Japan, one of my favorite jobs was when we’d go and clean out the irrigation ditches for the rice paddies. These videos are very satisfying.
posted by snwod at 7:08 PM on November 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


My reactions: Satisfying as a human doing good deeds. Jealous as a former kid who loved building dams in the ditch on my dirt road in rainstorms. Terrified as an engineer who knows what a suddenly unclogged drain can do. Disgusted as someone who knows what wastewater can contain.

Best of luck to him, it’s a matter of time.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:25 PM on November 24, 2019 [13 favorites]


Yea seriously, just watching him get into / onto a hugely blocked culvert on the inlet side and start digging with no care for egress or anything? Dude is going to die.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:28 PM on November 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


milkshake ducking a drain is the new overthinking a plate of beans
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:46 PM on November 24, 2019 [6 favorites]


we regret to inform you that the drain is racist

Listen, Metafilter gonna Metafilt.
posted by snowmentality at 7:51 PM on November 24, 2019 [8 favorites]


Both things can be true: I can think this guy is a saint doing good works and posting oddly satisfying and astonishingly good natured drain videos AND be unable to shake the mental image of the headline "GOOD SAMARITAN KILLED BY SPEEDING DRIVER."
posted by range at 7:55 PM on November 24, 2019 [9 favorites]


For the engineers and others with large amounts of knowledge, is using a rake in these situations a safe alternative? I found other videos of people clearing these with rakes and wondered if, when done with backup, if it's an ok way to handle it.
posted by Hactar at 7:56 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


I will think of this YouTube man in March as I chip ice around the 4 storm drain grates in front of my house in the hopes of draining my annual sidewalk moat. I wish he was my neighbor.
posted by Maarika at 8:01 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


For the curious, this is what happens when you combine floodwater, a culvert, and enough energy or time. What happens at roughly 50" is a good example of what can happen when apparently 'ankle deep' water unblocks itself; watch the rest of the video to make civil engineers everywhere cry.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:10 PM on November 24, 2019 [42 favorites]


watch the rest of the video to make civil engineers everywhere cry
I was sorta impressed until near the end and then I got REAL IMPRESSED
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:22 PM on November 24, 2019 [11 favorites]


Uh.. is my Youtube history set to public or something....
posted by PenDevil at 9:34 PM on November 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


Does this guy just live in a place with a crap public works department?
I don't think I've ever seen a culvert blocked that badly where I live, let alone enough of them to make a youtube channel out of it.

Granted, I live where it rains 6 months out of the year, so maybe we're just better at dealing with runoff?
posted by madajb at 9:43 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


I do this for the local storm drains occasionally, I know the city can't be everywhere when there's a downpour - a rake's definitely the right tool (and yes drivers suck) - it's a lot of fun, but even more fun of you take a small kid with you
posted by mbo at 10:22 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


Fiasco's vid link is impressive, but all amateur vid folks using phones or other non-optical zoomers, and probably even those of you who do: Please don't zoom. It's rarely more interesting, the quality degrades, it's super shaky, and we lose interesting things happening elsewhere. I mean, the film person was so intent on watching a dripping edge of pavement we lost the initial collapse of the road.

Zoom in post if you want/need. Thank you, this has been a public service announcement from a grumpy old man.
posted by maxwelton at 10:46 PM on November 24, 2019 [18 favorites]


So I got thinking, if people are sucked into drain grates etc in flood conditions, or otherwise get into trouble as outlined upthread, then undoubtedly there is Youtube evidence of it.

Well, that was a dumb thing to think, because of course there is. Amazingly, all three of those incidents had happy endings--even the cygnets (read the full video description for details). But it's very, very easy to imagine how things could have gone otherwise.
posted by flug at 11:28 PM on November 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


Two things -

1) As someone who lives in LA, is this a thing you need rain to appreciate.
2) All kidding aside, holy crap do people understand how much power water can carry.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:52 PM on November 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


This guy is freaking awesome I'm ready for the documentary
posted by sweetjane at 12:32 AM on November 25, 2019




There was a massive bumper crop of pine needles in New England this fall. That's what he's raking away from the storm drains in the 1st video I watched.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:13 AM on November 25, 2019


unexpectedly satisfying

Nothing unexpected about it. Removing blockages is always satisfying. This explains earwax removal and pimple popping videos as well.

I used this principle just the other day to engage little ms. flabdablet's interest in learning how to perform the Manly-Man Skill of using a bent coat hanger to pull up a huge bolus of rotted hair and soap and toothpaste from under the handbasin grating in one dreadful squirming dangling dripping quivering blackened lump. Naturally she was utterly revolted and oddly fascinated at the same time, and absolutely agreed with me that there are very few things in life as satisfying as seeing a handbasin that's been almost completely clogged for the last six weeks* suddenly becoming able to go from totally full to totally empty in ten seconds flat. So now she's nicely set up with yet another superpower for impressing future housemates.

*the essence of any Manly-Man Skill being, of course, that exercising it must be delayed until the tolerance of every household member for further procrastination has reached its limit several times over.
posted by flabdablet at 4:28 AM on November 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


> For the curious, this is what happens when you combine floodwater, a culvert, and enough energy or time.

Well, that excavated quickly.
posted by lucidium at 5:02 AM on November 25, 2019 [35 favorites]


This guy is freaking awesome I'm ready for the documentary

Unfortunately for our friend here, the documentary is going to have to be made by Werner Herzog.
posted by NoMich at 5:40 AM on November 25, 2019 [11 favorites]


Unclogging things is great, but I agree with everyone commenting on the apparent lack of safety considerations. At least he is wearing safety orange so he'll be easy to find downstream.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:02 AM on November 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


I live near (and garden in) an urban floodplain that is being rezoned for agricultural use, but still has a lot of residents living there. Climate change has contributed to worse and worse flooding over the past decade. As part of a municipal volunteer crew this fall I went out to clear drains and street debris (pre-flooding, it was safe) in a different neighborhood, and since then I've been looking for street drains everywhere. In this floodplain, there are SO FEW drains, and all of them are hopelessly clogged. So I went through the surrounding blocks with some friends earlier this month and cleaned them all out; I'm curious to see if this has an effect on flood damage in the spring.
posted by libraritarian at 6:54 AM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Fiasco's vid link is impressive, but all amateur vid folks using phones or other non-optical zoomers, and probably even those of you who do: Please don't zoom.

Indeed. Digital zoom, which is what you get on all phone cameras, is literally the same thing as just cropping the image later in Photoshop or Premiere or whatever.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:08 AM on November 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


These videos are satisfying, and also good at draining away my time - I lost an afternoon to them once.
posted by nubs at 8:03 AM on November 25, 2019


I'm all for clearing stormdrains and such, done it many a time myself on small scales, but I'm not a fan of going out into the woods and clearing "blockages" in wild* streams. I see that as removing important habitat diversity. * actually an abandoned drained dam but the creek is still wild.
posted by achrise at 8:03 AM on November 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


I've got something like that in my back yard - a "wet weather creek" which crosses the rear of our property. The lot next door has a barbed wire fence which crosses it (the old man had cows on the land before he passed away). The barbed wire has caught a tremendous amount of stuff and formed a sort of dam which results in lots and lots of water. Periodically I got back and poke holes in the accumulated limbs and nastiness to help with the drainage. Outside of rain, there's no water back there at all or I'd probably leave it alone.
posted by jquinby at 8:10 AM on November 25, 2019


If you enjoyed this FPP, this previous post about a river should be of interest.
posted by TedW at 12:31 PM on November 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I watched the lake drain culvert video and the whole time was wondering what was going to happen. I mean, was the grate weakened and rusty in spots, and was he going to fall in with a hideously grotesque impalement of some sort? What was his plan for the debris, once it was cleared? Just leave it there to clog the drain again in a few months? I even wondered what might be caught in the debris on that grate...ewww.

When he showed the open drain flowing again, I wondered what damage he did to the other side - if the culvert was designed for a certain amount of steady water flow, and you literally just break the dam, what effect does it have downstream? I guess the tick-infested swamp wasn't worth the effort. I imagine that whatever wildlife existed downstream wasn't ready for the flood he just created.

But what do I know?
posted by Chuffy at 1:19 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I used this principle just the other day to engage little ms. flabdablet's interest in learning how to perform the Manly-Man Skill of using a bent coat hanger to pull up a huge bolus of rotted hair and soap and toothpaste from under the handbasin grating in one dreadful squirming dangling dripping quivering blackened lump.

This really has nothing to do with anything, but in my household this endeavor is known as "hunting Chewbacca".
posted by oneirodynia at 2:08 PM on November 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


I recently acquired my first ever culvert. It allows a quite robust mountain creek to pass under my new driveway. I am eyeing it with newfound respect.
posted by spitbull at 5:11 PM on November 25, 2019


What got me was the town was okay with him going out there every so often, and causing some flooding downstream. I know he says that there's nothing downstream buuuuut.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:22 PM on November 25, 2019


I'm all for clearing stormdrains and such, done it many a time myself on small scales, but I'm not a fan of going out into the woods and clearing "blockages" in wild* streams . I see that as removing important habitat diversity. * actually an abandoned drained dam but the creek is still wild.

Huh. That is a weird one. This guy is like a reverse beaver, only happy when the water is flowing freely. It's good to have a hobby, but this maybe isn't the best hobby to have and I wonder if there is a compulsive component.

On the one hand, debris jams are natural and provide habitat complexity, as you note. On the other hand, anthropogenic pinch points like that (where they knocked a small hole in the bottom of the dam but otherwise left the barrier in place) can lead to passage barriers for aquatic species from high velocities, debris jams which can't clear naturally, jump heights, etc. One would hope that a qualified biologist (or ecologist, hydrologist, etc) would have had the opportunity to assess the jam prior to clearing.

The real head-scratcher for me in that video is that they left the dam almost entirely in place, aside from the hole at the lower right. It's cracking apart and people are using it as a party spot -- surely for liability reasons alone it would be smart to knock it down, regardless of the ecological benefits.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:29 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


> When he showed the open drain flowing again, I wondered what damage he did to the other side

First off, the amount of water resulting from a water level a couple of inches about the lip of the grate simply isn't going to be that huge. If you'd opened a similar-sized hole in the BOTTOM of the dam--yeah, that would have been a lot of water, because the pressure there is a lot higher.

Second, that amount of water flow in any free-flowing river or stream varies dramatically from day to day, season to season, and year to year.

Looking at the waterflow record for a little river nearby, I note a greater than 16X variation in water flow just in the past week.

Looking over the past year, I note a variation of 1200X.

Yes, 1200X--high flow was just above 12,000 cubic feet per second, and low flow was about 10 cubic feet per second.

Looking at the past 20 years, the variation is greater than 4000X (less than 10 cfs to greater than 40,000 cfs).

FYI that translates into a depth differential of about 10X. At low flow, it's about 4 feet deep. At highest flow, just over 40 feet. (Of course it is much, much wider at 40 feet of depth.)

In fact, dams that hold the water outflow levels steady really mess with the downstream ecology. The occasional very large burst of water flow is definitely well within the range of normal.
posted by flug at 6:41 PM on November 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


For the curious, this is what happens when you combine floodwater, a culvert, and enough energy or time. What happens at roughly 50" is a good example of what can happen when apparently 'ankle deep' water unblocks itself; watch the rest of the video to make civil engineers everywhere cry.

I used to go running through shallow water across a frequently-flooded roadway near my house. I am... not going to ever do that again.
posted by BrashTech at 1:31 PM on November 26, 2019


This guy on youtube documented the removal of a dam from a river in Ohio last summer with a drone and has done follow up videos. It's so satisfying to see the river clear out a century of silt that accumulated behind where the dam used to be.

There's also lots of beaver dam clearing videos on youtube. Those are pretty satisfying to watch as well.
posted by Blue Tsunami at 8:49 AM on November 28, 2019


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