City Preps Pump Stations for El Nino Rains

If El Nino brings the heavy rains it is predicted to, city leaders want to be ready

As San Diego readies for a wet winter, courtesy of an expected strong El Nino, city leaders are making sure pump stations are prepared for potential flooding.

The city’s 14 stations are designed to move stormwater quickly out of neighborhoods before it can pool into homes and businesses.

Of most concern is Pump Station N in Mission Beach, one of the largest. It is capable of pumping out an Olympic-sized swimming pool in about one minute.

But in February 2010, the station was overwhelmed, as city officials put it. The water back-up from a heavy storm was so severe that much of the area around the pump was completely underwater.

Since then, City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said the stormwater department has invested millions to improve the existing pumps and add new ones.

“We have more pumps, we have better pumps, we have a lot more personnel and we're really prepared should heavy rains come,” she said Monday.

However, many business owners in flood-prone areas of Mission Beach Drive said they are still skeptical. The owner of the Mission Market has sandbags at the ready.

“You never can be 100-percent flood proof,” said Kris McFadden with the city’s Transportation and Stormwater Department. “No city on the planet is, but it's important to note, we've taken all the efforts we can take in order to be safe.”

City officials are asking residents to do their part by keeping storm drains clear because trash and debris can clog up the system.

This year, the city has cleared about 28,000 storm drains along curbs to keep the pump stations operating well.

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