by Kate Pfeifer - The Sandner Group
The winter of 2014-2015 has certainly been extreme. With meteorological events ranging from arctic vortices to a seemingly constant stream of winter storms causing power outages and chaos on the roadways, hardly any parts of the nation were spared from the cold. While many of us continue to look forward to spring (and others wonder if it will ever arrive), we must all keep in mind the hazards that arise as temperatures increase - primarily, flooding and potholes. Read on to discover some tips on how to deal with these unfortunate post-winter hazards.
Due to the large amount of snow that has fallen this season, it is hard to remember the last time grass was visible. While we generally welcome the thaw, if temperatures rise too quickly, substantial flooding can occur due to rapid snow melt. Flooding due to snow melt occurs when the snow melts faster than the ground can thaw, eliminating the ground’s ability to absorb the excess water. This type of flooding threatens more than just school district buildings that lie on flood plains. The following precautions should be taken to prevent flooding from snow melt:
- Ensure all downspouts are able to drain several feet away from buildings to prevent water from seeping into the foundation or basement areas. This type of water intrusion can compromise the structural integrity of the entire building.
- Clear all gutters of debris and ice so melted snow may run off without obstructions. Clogged gutters can cause water to back up and seep into roof structures or through windows.
- If there are any storm drains on district property, be sure to check that the drains are clear of debris. Often litter and ice can block storm drains in the winter, but we are unaware of it because snow obstructs a view of the obstacles.
- Be sure that weather stripping on doors, windows, skylights or any other roof openings are in good condition and do not allow any water permeation.
- Watch for stains on ceiling tiles which are indicators of possible roof leakage. Leaks should be taken care of immediately to prevent mold and mildew from forming and damaging the roof. After all the snow has melted, it is a good idea to inspect the roof for standing water or stains, which are evidence of damaged roofing.
You may have noticed severe buckling in the roads during your daily commutes. As the weather gets warmer, be prepared for those buckled areas to turn into dangerous potholes. Buckling in the road and parking lots occurs when water under the pavement freezes and expands. Potholes emerge when the ice under the weakened pavement thaws. One only has to drive over a deep pothole once to understand the severe damage that can be done to a vehicle. Unfortunately, efforts to maneuver around them might cause an accident.
While there is not much that can be done to prevent potholes from forming, there are a number of ways in which districts can minimize vehicle damage and bodily injury caused by potholes. The most important step a district can take is to eliminate the risk as soon as possible once it has been discovered. Districts should consider implementing a pothole reporting system that allows both visitors and staff to notify the District that a pothole was discovered and whether it is in a district parking lot or on roads surrounding the school. The district can then have maintenance staff repair the pothole as soon as possible or alert the city of the hazard.
In addition to the risks of property damage and injury that buckled roads and parking lots can present, sidewalks must also be considered as they are also at risk of suffering from cracks and imperfections as it warms up outside. A reporting system and a timely repair system are important weapons a district can use to identify and eliminate hazards. Students and staff should easily be able to alert the district to cracks in pavement on sidewalks or stairs, and the appropriate maintenance staff should repair the flaws as soon as possible.
Now is also the time to start prepping for the severe weather associated with spring and early summer. In order to fully prepare for whatever inclement weather each season may bring, we must assume that the conditions will be extreme. Because significant rainfall, severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes are all common occurrences during spring and summer, it is important to review tornado response plans, examine designated safe areas, conduct trials to ensure all students and staff can get to safety within one-two minutes. Districts in flood zones should verify that they have access to all materials that are typically used to prevent water from entering buildings in the event of heavy rain and/or flash floods, such as sand bags, sump pumps, etc.