The need for strong, independent local journalism
is more urgent than ever. Please support the city we
love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

Amid Hopes for a Weekend of Rain, Portland City Officials Beg: Clean Out Your Local Storm Drain

Having residents clear out a storm drain near them allows PBOT more time to focus on problem areas, like clogged drains or ponding.

This weekend, Portland is poised to get more rain than the city has received in the past three months combined.

Between Friday and Sunday, the first rainstorm of autumn could dump 1.75 inches of rain on Portland, says Brianna Muhlestein of the National Weather Service. Since June 1, the city has seen just over 1.5 inches.

Portland’s notorious rainy season, which produces an average of 37 inches of rain a year, is back. Longtime residents know what that portends: clogged storm drains turning city streets into instant lakes.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is asking for help. There are 58,000 storm drains throughout the city and not enough PBOT crews to clear all of them. With its Adopt a Storm Drain campaign, PBOT asks Portlanders to keep storm drains in their neighborhoods clear of leaves so they can work properly during a storm.

Though residents don’t officially adopt a storm drain, PBOT capital projects coordinator Hannah Schafer says having residents clear out a storm drain near them allows the bureau more time to focus on problem areas, like clogged drains or ponding.

PBOT suggests some precautions to take in order to be safe while clearing a storm drain, including using a rake, shovel or broom to avoid touching sharp objects with your hands. Drains should be cleared before rain hits—not once the water starts forming ponds. Residents should beware of passing cars, wear reflective clothing, and only clear drains that can be reached from the sidewalk.

Residents should clear 10 feet on both sides of the drain to ensure easy water flow but should never lift the drain gates. Only surface debris should be cleaned. If drains stay clogged after clearing the leaves, residents should call PBOT maintenance dispatch.

After residents finish clearing a drain, leaves should be placed in a roll cart for curbside pickup, not left in the street.

Muhlestein of the National Weather Service just hopes the rain front keeps moving through the metro region. A stalled front on the first big storm of fall can flood rivers and cause landslides on fire-scarred hillsides.

“Many people are excited about it,” she says. “We’re hoping that it moves.”