Sandbags handed out, canal water levels dropped ahead of incoming tropical weather

As a tropical system expected to bring heavy rainfall bears down on South Florida, officials are preparing for a wet weekend.

A number of cities are handing out sandbags, and the South Florida Water Management District is actively trying to drop water levels in canals across Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Local 10 stopped by a Fort Lauderdale sandbag distribution site Thursday where people were preparing, but not panicking.

“It can never hurt to be ready,” Vince Valldeperas said. “I’m on river land so it’s right by the water there. If the water rises too much in the canals it gets high in the streets also.”

“This may not be the full hurricane that often times comes to our shores but it is a wake up call to those in our community (to) get ready, be prepared, prepare for the worst,” Dean Trantalis, Fort Lauderdale’s mayor, said.

“The rain, it’s coming, you can smell it,” said 10yo Gerardo Briones. “The wind,” said Maggie Machado, “it was horrible.” They were some of the people surprised when strong wind gusts suddenly kicked up surf and sand at Hobie Beach just off of the Rickenbacker Causeway. ▶️ 1/3

— Christina Boomer Vazquez, M.S. (@CBoomerVazquez) June 2, 2022

When it comes to canals, some stations use pumps to physically move water at all times of the day, but most of the area’s flood management system uses gravity. Water flows from higher elevations in the western parts of the counties, and then goes downhill to the Atlantic Ocean in the east.

Since high tide just passed, most gates are down so saltwater coming from the ocean doesn’t flow back into the canals, officials said, which, in addition to causing environmental issues, would defeat the purpose of the current drawdowns, which are meant to bring water levels lower in the canals.

The idea is to provide extra space in the canals, preventing flooding during heavy rain.

“We’re going to see probably the heaviest Friday, Friday night, early Saturday but that’s a reason for being preemptive or ahead of the whole game because you can’t wait until the storm is on top of you, because you just can’t move the water out fast enough,” Randy Smith, a spokesperson for the South Florida Water Management District, said. “That’s why we do these pre-storm drawdowns, which is what we’re in the process of doing right now.”

SFWMD will be working throughout the day and night Thursday to draw down water levels.

Crews in Miami-Dade County are continuing their daily work of clearing storm drains and grates to ensure water can move easily into canals to prevent flooding.

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