Crews racing to clear storm drains with flooding possible Friday

Photo: Marcos Valentin/WPRI-TV

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A combination of rain in the forecast and milder temperatures has the Department of Public Works crews around Southern New England racing to clear out storm drains, and they could use some help.

A Flood Watch has been issued for the entire area from Friday morning through Saturday afternoon. Rain is expected to fall heavy at times as the snow from last week’s storm continues to melt, which could lead to localized street flooding. Local rivers and streams will also need to be monitored closely.

Officials say there are approximately 12,000 catch basins in Providence alone. City workers were out in droves Thursday working to clear them of snow and ice, but officials asked residents and businesses to pitch in if possible to prevent flooding.

“What we’ve been able to do is clear about 150 catch basins and we responded to about 30 high-frequency, high-call-volume areas where we get during flooding,” Providence DPW Director Mike Borg said.

In Cranston, city workers traded snow plows for backhoes as they sought to keep flooding to a minimum, putting a focus on low-lying areas. It’s an expensive but necessary task to keep residents safe.

“We’re anticipating the snow will cost us close to $150,000,” Cranston Mayor Allan Fung said. “We’re going to invest whatever dollars in what needs to be done but it is costly. When you have a storm that’s over 15 inches, we’re still rallying up the bills now, just in the private vendors alone, that bill was well over $100,000.”

In addition to freeing up storm drains, Fung also stressed the importance of clearing sidewalks and shoveling out any snow-covered fire hydrants.

Rhode Island State Police are also watching the forecast, saying the weather could be a recipe for disaster on the roads.

“We’re going to have so much rain, on top of the snow that we already have, in addition to the thawing temperatures,” Sgt. Greg Cunningham said.

Cunningham said there is a higher risk of hydroplaning in the upcoming weather conditions.

“Because of all of the snow and all of the rain, there is going to be some flooding, there will be some pooling of water on the roads,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said because that risk is increased, it is important to leave room between your car and other cars and also to drive slower than usual.

“The roads are even more narrow now because of the snow banks that exist,” Cunningham said. “Take your time, don’t rush, work with one another on the road, let’s work together and we should get through it no problem.”