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'emergency preparedness'

Jan 13

In the News

Posted to MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin on January 13, 2017 at 2:58 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

 Misty checks out a nature-made rain garden
Lately not a day goes by without weather warnings notifying me of blasting blizzard conditions, flash flood warnings, ice on the roads and recommendations to stay indoors. The warnings, however, are not exclusive to us here in Lassen County. While watching the Bay Area news this week, I saw highway and road closures throughout Marin, evacuation and flooding in San Anselmo, and Corte Madera Creek rising to flood stage. I even saw videos of people surfing and boogie-boarding down rain-swollen Mill Creek.

These news warnings are a reminder that we need to be extremely careful when landscaping to keep our homes safe. Standing water or flooding can be an indicator of drainage design flaws. Sometimes these flaws do not reveal themselves until we experience what is known as the 100-year-storm scenario. A mild or modest rainfall may have no ill-effects on our property, but then an unusually big storm exposes the problem. An example of this occurs when water can no longer percolate down into the soil before running off. If the runoff exceeds the drain capacity on the property, or if the grading was crowned or sloped toward the house, excess water can end up under the house—or in the house if the home is on a slab. A good drainage design calculates for the worst historical rain conditions to draw water away from the house.

There are steps we can take to correct design flaws and help stormwater "slow down, spread out and soak in." If you live on a hillside, you can create multiple bioswales, such as bark-filled troughs, along the width of the hillside. Stormwater collects and slowly percolates into in each swale before continuing to the one below, thus eliminating the rush of unrestrained water flowing off the hillside. 

dry creek bed
Functional dry creekbed
Trenches designed as functional dry creekbeds can divert water away from the house and into a rain garden—a simple, shallow, pond-like area where the water can safely collect. Landscape your rain garden with plants able to withstand a lot of water in winter and minimal irrigation in the summer. Many iris, Monarda, asters and even the monarch-butterfly-attracting Asclepias are great for sunny rain gardens. Or choose ferns, blue-eyed grasses and Mimulus for shade. For more plant ideas, visit:

If you live in a flood zone, be prepared to evacuate if instructed to do so. In addition, plan ahead by stocking cupboards with extra food and water in case you are told to "shelter in place," lose power or are unable to get to a store. Keep extra warm clothing and shoes in your autos and do not attempt to drive through flood waters.

Be safe and have a great weekend.
Dec 02

The Wrappings

Posted to MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin on December 2, 2016 at 9:10 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

A conversation among friends yesterday had me awake in the wee hours this morning. The discussion centered around wrapping presents. In my dream state, however, the thoughts focused not on wrapping gifts, but water pipes! Just before I went to bed, the newscasters had foretold of temperatures plummeting into the teens here in Lassen County. 

But strangely, my midnight musings were not about the ranch here but haunting memories of freezing temperatures experienced in years past in Marin. You might ask, why the concern wouldn't be as great in snow country? The outdoor hose bibs we use in Lassen are constructed differently than those found in Marin. In the middle of the frost-proof pipe is a type of plunger that pushes the water down below the frozen ground so the pipes don't burst. This type of assembly eliminates the need to wrap the pipes.

In Marin, where winter temperatures are a bit warmer, regular hose bibs are the norm. However, winter temperatures in Marin are known to drop below freezing. Those low temperatures can cause exposed hose bibs and water pipes to freeze and burst, resulting in water spewing freely until the water is shut off and the pipes are repaired. 
pipe insulation
 Pipe insulation
There are several things you can do to prevent those nightmares. First, wrap pipes that are exposed to the outdoors. The hardware stores carry a foam insulated tube that slides around pipe. After wrapping, secure the slit in the foam using duct tape to hold the foam in place. This simple procedure takes just a few minutes.

If you have a backflow device on your property, cover it with a special blanket made for protecting the device from freezing weather. If a backflow blanket is not available, an old blanket or sleeping bag will work equally well.

If your pipes do freeze and burst, you'll want to turn off the water promptly to prevent water waste and damage to your property. Hopefully, whoever installed the irrigation or plumbing on the property installed a shut-off valve after the meter. If you can’t turn off the water yourself, call MMWD’s 24-hour emergency line at 415-945-1500 and we’ll send someone to turn it off at the meter. 

If you find you don't have a shut-off valve after the meter and another where your irrigation valve system begins, it's worth installing them. This step will save you time and trouble over the long run, allowing you to work on any future plumbing or irrigation problems without the need to turn off water to the entire property.

Be prepared for those cold winter nights so you won't be awakened by thoughts of wrappings that do not constitute gift-giving.