Column: Rain’s coming, Bloomington, so please help clean out storm drains

Before and after clean-out effort for the storm storm drain on the south side of 12th Street just east of Walnut Street. Feb. 15, 2022.

The National Weather Service forecast for Bloomington on Wednesday (Feb. 16) and Thursday (Feb. 17) is warm. The high temperature is supposed to hit 60 F degrees both days.

The rain that’s supposed to come with the warmer weather is enough to warrant a flood watch for a large area, which includes Bloomington.

On Tuesday, the city of Bloomington responded to the weather forecast in part by asking residents to check on storm drains in their neighborhoods.

Clearing out storm drains in your own neighborhood is a good idea. Please help out if that’s the kind of thing you’re able to do.

Sure, I wish the city had enough crews to make sure all the storm drains are clear.

But according to Holly McLauchlin, the utilities communication manager, there are about 6,000 storm drains citywide.

What’s the math on that? Even if it took just 1 minute to check and clear every drain, that would work out to 100 hours. It would take 10 people working a 10-hour day to finish the job—and that’s if it only took a minute per drain.

You could spend way more than a minute, if a drain has leaves and debris stuck in it—especially if they have not yet thawed.

On Tuesday, walking from downtown up to Miller-Showers Park, I passed a drain at 12th Street that I knew from experience was likely to be clogged. And it was. Leaves and sticks were frozen to the grate, and a layer of ice surrounded the basin.

I don’t carry a pickaxe everywhere I go, so I did the best I could with my bare hands. And I used a stick to poke at it a bit. I did not leave it in perfect shape, but it’s better than it was.

If you spot a drain that needs some attention from the utilities folks, it’s probably worth filing a uReport.

Now, you don’t have to be a part of the city’s adopt-a-drain program to go fish the leaves and branches out of the grate, and clear upstream debris from the gutter. I know this because nobody challenged me when I was poking at the drain on 12th Street with a stick: Hey, old man, are you authorized to be cleaning out that storm drain?

But if you want some official information and good advice about taking care of the storm drain in your neighborhood, it surely can’t hurt to sign up for the program.

The mention of Miller-Showers Park a couple of paragraphs ago was not some random detail I threw in for dramatic effect. The park is integrated into the city’s stormwater management system, like the storm drains.

The reference to the park is also a great excuse to share this photo, of a muskrat that was hanging out at Miller-Showers Park on Tuesday.

Muskrat at Miller-Showers Park, Bloomington, Indiana. Feb. 15, 2022.