Panama City public works crews were out in full force Wednesday, doing what they could to minimize flooding of city streets.
As is usually the case during prolonged periods of heavy rain, the Candlewick Acres subdivision got a lot of attention. The low-lying area is one of the city's problem spots and, at high tide, a lot of rain turns the streets into rivers.
"There is not much holding capacity underground and when you have the rain, it just takes it a much longer time to get into the system and travel out through the bay," Marcus Parrish, Superintendent of the Maintenance Division, said.
The division's five foremen and 50 employees fanned out across the city's four wards to clean inlets, open storm gates and make sure ditches were flowing. In Candlewick Acres, workers set up barricades in places where water covered the street as the city's $250,000 vacuum truck headed for trouble spots.
Parrish said the vacuum truck is the "life blood" of the department. "We have a camera system fully functional on that [so] we can identify, locate and even measure the distance to the problems," Parrish said. "If we can't clear them with the hose, we can excavate and then get that blockage broken free."
In spite of isolated problems in areas such as Candlewick Acres, advanced equipment and ongoing system improvements such as replacement of old pipe and additional retention areas have eliminated most emergency calls, Parrish said. "We figure out what the problem is and we often upgrade them at that time," he said.
Homeowners can help prevent flooding by keeping drainage areas clear of debris such as lawn clippings and tree limbs. "Don't set the stuff in front of an inlet or on top of a grate," Parrish said.
City crews are on standby around the clock, ready to respond whenever the water rises. Outside of normal business hours and on holidays, residents can call the Panama City Police Department at 872-3112 to report flooding emergencies.