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A brand new bag--Santa Cruz Co. tries modernized “sandbags”

New flood barriers store flat, expand when wet
Posted at 6:37 PM, Sep 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-10 21:37:19-04

NOGALES, Ariz. - Dangerous, disruptive flood water can be a real problem in the Nogales area.

Now Santa Cruz County is going beyond old-fashioned sandbags and trying a sophisticated new way to keep businesses dry.

Monsoon rain can make the Nogales Wash run hard; and sometimes the rain can fill Morley Avenue and seep into the stores in the shopping district.

Stores can use sandbags to wall off the water. But Santa Cruz County Flood Control handed out flat yellow bags instead.

Floodplain Coordinator John Hays says, “The concept is the bags are filled with a polymer, a water absorbing polymer very much like the polymers you find in diapers or in that material you can get for your pots at Home Depot to hold water in the soil."

So the bags don't stay flat for long. Water makes them swell up and hold back water like a normal sandbag.

Now if you think about it and you're inclined to set out sandbags because a storm might be coming, a conventional sandbag is heavy enough that it might discourage you from doing it. But if you have one of the flat, expandable bags, you can set them out as a precaution and if it doesn't rain you just pick them up and store them."

The bags are from a company called Flood Avert. John Hays saw the special bags at a conference for flood control managers. He says they cost more up front than regular bags but regular sandbags can cost much more than you'd think.

"They're probably 10 to 20 cents apiece plus the sand and the man hours to fill them which can start to add up plus you have the transportation costs of the material plus, you know sand being weighty you're going to need heavy duty trucks to be able to transport back and forth."

Santa Cruz County passed out the new bags to stores along Morley Avenue. At Kim's Shoes Kendre Duarte says they're happy to have flood protection on stand by.

"It's not heavy. It's easy to put them on and that's good.">

And once the bags dry out they shrink back down to be protection on stand by for the next big rain.