No place to grow a tree

Drainage: Chance of flooding worsened by vegetation and other debris clogging city's storm system.

September 10, 1999

RECENT, HUGE STORMS that swamped drainage systems in Baltimore and elsewhere illustrated two truths:

Flooding can occur even in the midst of a drought.

And storm drains aren't a good place to grow trees.

Baltimore has more than 33,000 storm drains -- known as scuppers -- feeding into 1,000 miles of underground pipes. The city has 10 crews -- of four people each -- assigned to ensure the system is clear, according to the city's public works department. These crews are supposed to clean each scupper twice a year. City officials say their system works.

But walk down Baltimore's streets and what do you see? Drains packed with dirt and debris.

People who use storm drains as trash bins bear most of the blame for the problem. But in some cases, trees and bushes have actually taken root in scuppers -- and that's a cleaning issue.

The city can -- and should -- do better than that.

Citizens can reduce the chance of flooding by cleaning trash from gutters and the tops of storm drains. They should report clogged drains to DPW at 410-396-5352.

With luck, a tree won't have taken root before the drain is cleared.

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