Town Square

Flooding in Palo Alto: How good is drainage?

Original post made by John Gale, Downtown North, on Jan 4, 2008

Having moved to Palo Alto from a much, much rainier state (Maryland), the biggest thing I've noticed is the high number of rain puddles that linger in streets for days after a rain storm. Since Palo Alto has an average summer rainfall of pretty much nil, it seems that the drainage system is a "it only breaks for a month or two, so it's fine".

Unfortunately, with the recent deluge of liquid pouring from the sky, it's all that more obvious that poor drainage can cause flooding on streets, leading to car accidents and nearby housing damage, let alone pedestrians getting soaked when a passing car drives through a nearby puddle.

What is the work to reward ratio of adding better drainage to city streets? It seems that the results of ignoring our poor city drainage are becoming more obvious.


Like this comment
Posted by JW
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 4, 2008 at 7:37 pm

John Gales, we recently passed an increase in our storm drain fees to take care of all the possibly flooding that may occur after our rare winter gully washers (see your utility bill). This is supposed to take care of such problems as ponding along Alma and other storm drain issues.

Since I was raised in Britain where it rains all the time, I learned to drive with constant ponding and puddles, just slow down.

Like this comment
Posted by Brit
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2008 at 7:53 pm


Britain has a lot more rain, but a much better method of drainage. I have no idea how it works, but all home down spouts have collection to the underground water dispersion system and all downspouts continue underground. Groundwater collected in gutters vanishes into drains and very rarely are there problems with standing water in residential areas. The big problems come into account in rural areas or where there are major rivers like the Thames. Yes, floods do occur, but only when there is a great deal of rain over a prolonged period, not the first rain storm of the season.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2008 at 1:46 am

Palo Alto is really green and has an impressive list of Sister Cities. We are begging for a federal grant to eliminate one obvious drainage impediment, and have been waiting a while.

Like this comment
Posted by Jenny
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2008 at 6:53 am

As I walk around the streets in South Palo Alto I notice that many of the storm drains are plugged up with leave and debris. In the neighborhood where I live we ask the residents to help by raking the debris away from the street gutters and storm drains. It really helps the city if residents can clean off the storm drain gratings so water doesn't back-up down the street and cause ponding.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2008 at 11:33 am

The trees have been bare of leaves for about a month now and there are still loads (literally) of leaves around on the ground.

1. residents should clear away their own leaves off their own property and put them in the green recycling can.

2. residents should not park on streets on sweeping day so that the leaves in the gutter can be swept away by the city. Cars parked on the streets is one of the primary reasons why there are so many leaves still around to clog up drains.