St. Louis County Using Culvert Steamers to Prep for Possible Flooding

Taylor Holt
Updated: March 12, 2019 10:42 PM

St. Louis County officials are bringing out the heavy equipment in preparation for flooding concerns. They have 20 culvert steamers that were out early Tuesday morning making sure storm drains are clear of any snow to allow all the anticipated water find a way out.

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"They are out where ever there is water on the roads," said Andrew Olson, Highway Maintenance Supervisor with the Public Works Department. "They are out steaming under the ice and getting water drain-off into the ditches. They go into the culvert, and a lot of times there is so much much snow in the ditches."

Olson says their first order of business is tackling the busy roads.

"We are starting with the highly-traveled ones, like Morris Thomas Road, where there's big dips in the road, and where water will pull up on the sides. Also, anywhere where there are low spots," said Olson.
Two steamers were out at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. Highway Maintenance Operator Mike Rohweder says the trucks that hold 200 gallons of water have had to be filled up several times.

"You never know exactly what your going to get. Sometimes you get a culvert that is too old and deteriorated and one year, it just plugs up  and now you have to start jetting it," he said.

The way the steamers work is, they use a hose and high pressure to spray hot water at blocked culverts. Once water is able to flow through, the hole will continue to widen for better drainage.

"The most time consuming part is finding the end of the culvert, usually that where people end up plowing all their snow at the end of their driveways, so you spend a lot of time cleaning up the iced up piles," said Rohweder.

So, he says while they do their job, homeowners can help. 

"Lots of things would help like, not plowing snow or snow blowing it into the ditches where your culverts are, at the end of your driveways. That makes it really hard for us to get in and clean it right away," said Olson.

They say it's a pretty normal year for them when it comes to snow and ice melt, but his advice to residents is still to keep a watchful eye.

"If you can see it's starting to build up, or water is backing up, be proactive about that. Other wise, the best solution is to be proactive in the beginning," said Rohweder.



Taylor Holt

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