All About Sandbags . . .

Since we’re going into another flood watch, how about a post on sandbags? Below are some tips on using sandbags as well as where to get sandbags in our area.


Remember you know your property. You know its geography and how prone it is to flooding. Follow weather alerts to know if flooding is expected in the area (some alerts will include specific creeks, rivers, etc.), watch the watercourses near your home, and plan according. Starting tonight, we will be on a flood watch and it is recommended people check in throughout the next couple of days to see if we are upgraded to a flood warning, although at this time, they are not predicting severe flooding for our area. People who know that their properties are prone to flooding are also advised to prepare for potential flooding.

If you decide you do need sandbags, follow these tips:
-Make sandbags as early during the flooding event as you can. They’re more effective if you get them in place before the water reaches you! But only fill them when you believe you are going to use them as the bags themselves can deteriorate!
Dress appropriately! Wear gloves and sturdy shoes while filling or moving sandbags. Dress for the elements – is it freezing? Is it hot? Thin layers are great for winter so if you work up a sweat filling or placing sandbags, you can take a layer off.
-You need to be at your best during these sorts of extreme weather events so take care of yourself – get some sleep, stay hydrated, eat regularly, and take breaks while you’re working.
-Sandbags get real heavy real fast! Practice safe lifting practices! Use your legs, not your back! Work smarter, not harder.
-Sandbag filling is tiring work which makes it easier to become injured. This is not a good job for children, the elderly, or people who are ill. (In fact, if there is a safe dry place to leave extra sandbags and you have a little time, why not fill some extra bags to leave for someone not as able to fill their own or bring them to a frail neighbor to help them out?)
-To help avoid injuries and make filling more efficient, have at least two people on hand to fill bags. One person holds the bag with the bottom of the ground on the ground while the other fills it.
-A flower pot without a bottom makes a great funnel for filling sandbags.
Only fill bags 1/2-2/3 full! If you fill them more, not only could they become too heavy to move quickly and easily (which might be needed) but they are also not as effective! Filling up sandbags completely doesn’t give the sand anywhere to move so they are unable to mold together to create a good barrier.
-You can tie bags or fold them over. Although tying is recommended if you have to transport them – such as from a sandbag station to your house.
-Your primary focus should be doors, basement windows, and other places where water is most likely to get in.
Use 6mil poly sheets to create a better barrier. Fold the sheets back away from where the water will be after the first layer or when you finish your layers. After you flip the poly sheets over your sandbags, place more bags behind and on top of your wall.
Fold the open end under before placement.
Put sandbags in their position hard to get the sand into a good layout throughout the bag and step down on them after each placement.
-The bags should be positioned lengthwise and the bottom layer should have the open end of the bag facing away from where the flow is expected to come from.
The bags in a layer should overlap. Each bag should rest on its previously placed neighbor a bit.
Use a brickwork pattern. Whether horizontal or vertical, you do not want to create a row of bag ends – this will weaken the structure and leaks will get in worse than they otherwise would.
-If you need more height than you can get from three stacked sandbags, you need to build a sandbag pyramid rather than a wall. Pyramids should be as high as they are wide.
Place sandbags in bathtubs/showers, toilets, other internal drains, and air vents that might back up contaminated water during flooding.
-Discard used sandbags. Not only do they deteriorate over time but if they have come into any contact with flood water, they should be considered contaminated. Flood water is often mixed with all kinds of debris, chemicals, and even raw sewage – that sand is not something you want laying around your property in your flowerbeds or your child’s sandbox! After the flooding event, you have several options to dispose of your sandbags. If you ended up not needing to use them, you can use the sand around your property or offer it to your neighbors (we were told Frink’s General Store might know of people in search of sand around town too). If you ended up needing to use the sandbags and they became wet from flood waters, they need to be considered contaminated and not safe for use around your or anyone else’s property. Republic Services told us that these sandbags may be thrown into your trash for regular pick up.

If you ever need sandbags, there are multiple sites throughout Polk County. Please be advised that not all of these locations are always open. We keep an updated list of open sandbag locations during each potential flooding event.

~In the City of Falls City:
-The southeast side of the Falls City Public Works’ shop on Parry Road across from the Post Office. It is a self-serve site. Bags are stored in the pipe next to the sand pile but you will need to bring your own shovel.

~In City of Dallas:
-At the Polk County Public Works Shops, 820 SW Ash St. In small building on left towards the front. Set up year round, gate opened during bad weather. Shovels provided. Self-serve site.
-Behind Dallas High School, 1250 SW Holman Av. Bags are located in the box next to the sand. Bring your own shovel. Self-serve site..
-The parking lot west of the Lyle Sports Complex on Ellendale. Bring your own shovel. Self-serve site.

~In City of Independence:
-At 555 S Main St in the gravel lot just before City Hall and across from the Independence Police Department parking lot.

~In City of Salem:
Park and Ride at Wallace Road NW and Brush College Road NW
Public Works Operations, 1420 20th Street SE


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