Here is the sort of news item you never, ever want to hear coming from your program’s jurisdiction: Last week near Duluth, Minnesota, which has been experiencing record floods, an eight-year-old boy somehow fell into a storm sewer and was carried downstream. Fortunately, he survived with relatively minor injuries.
It’s not clear exactly how the child actually entered the storm sewer; according to witnesses, it wasn’t raining and the street wasn’t heavily flooded, but apparently there was some standing water. When he stepped into what he thought was a shallow puddle, he slipped into a culvert with a 2 ½-foot opening and disappeared. Adults who scrambled to locate him found that the culvert was filled with rushing water, and although they tried to follow it aboveground—even lifting manhole covers along the street—they saw no sign of him.
He traveled some distance (some local news reports said six blocks, others about a mile) through the storm sewer and emerged in a wooded creek, where a resident found him and called 911. The boy was bruised and bleeding and had a concussion, but he was awake and alert. He later explained that he plugged his nose during the trip through the sewer.
We occasionally read about people falling into storm sewers in areas that have open channels; there is an article dated this Monday, in fact, from a Chennai, India, newspaper about a woman who drowned after falling into an uncovered storm drain. Stormwater ponds are a recognized danger, as well, and are sometimes fenced or are designed with features that will allow people to get out if they accidentally fall in, like stepped or shallowly sloped sides.
I found this statement in an article on the Minnesota incident: “If the culvert is newer, said Duluth senior engineering specialist Bill Bergstrom, it has a smooth interior to allow water to flow quickly and to lessen the chance of debris clogging it. It did not have a grate over it. Many in the city do not, Bergstrom said. The general policy is not to have grates, he said, because they clog after debris gets caught in them and can cause flooding. If people with small children or animals live near a culvert and ask for a grate, the city will install one, he said.”
How likely is it that something like this could happen in your area? What is the policy, if any, on grates?