Sandbag Information: Use, Disposal, & Collection
There may be a time when all that stands between a home and the rising floodwaters are some sandbags. The City put together this sandbag guide to help anyone in need of the barrier.
Sand & Sandbag Locations
Free sand and ready-to-fill bags are available to City residents at the following locations:
- Engineering Service Building - 1600 Emil Street
- Olbrich Park Secondary Boat Launch Parking Lot - 3402 Atwood Avenue
- Olin Park Parking Lot - 1156 Olin-Turville Court
- Spring Harbor Park Parking Lot - 5417 Lake Mendota Drive
- Tenney Park Beach Parking Lot - 1254 Sherman Avenue
- Thut Park - 2630 Nana Way
- Warner Park Beach Parking Lot - 1101 Woodward Drive
Residents are advised to bring their own shovel to load sand bags.
Sandbag drop-off site: Streets East – 4602 Sycamore Ave.
Sandbags are a good way to reduce flood water damage, and when they are properly filled and placed, the sandbags can act as a barrier to moving water around instead of through buildings.
Sandbags will leak, and it’s best to have a pump on the dry side to remove water that gets in. Also, for people in flood-prone areas, the City recommends homeowners have a pump on hand ahead of time. Pumps are harder to find during flood events, so homeowners should buy a pump to have just in case.
Sandbags do not necessarily need to be tied. During the historic flooding in 2018, the City of Madison tied all the sandbags the City provided. The City provided over 200,000 filled sandbags to residents.
Tied sandbags may be used in situations such as:
- When pre-filling and stockpiling is required
- Filling holes
- Holding objects in position
- Form barriers backed by supportive planks
Do not use:
- Garbage bags
- Feed sacks
The most common sizes for a sandbag are 14 by 26 inches to 17 by 32 inches. A typical sandbag weighs about 30 pounds. Thirty sandbags are equal to approximately ½ ton (one ton is 2000 pounds) and is the maximum legal load limit for a ½ ton truck.
- First, find gloves. Filling sandbags is a two-person operation. Both people should wear gloves to protect their hands.
- Person No. 1 should fold the throat of the bag to form a collar.
- Person No. 1 should then place the bag between widespread feet on ground and hold bag out for Person No. 2. Person No.1 should be standing with knees slightly flexed, and head and face as far away from the shovel as possible.
- Second person should empty a shovel full of sand into the open end carefully. Do not rush filling, it may cause unnecessary spilling and added work.
Bags should be filled between one-third to one-half of the bag’s capacity. This keeps the bag from getting too heavy and allows the bags to be stacked with a good seal.
For large scale operations, sandbags can be filled faster with bag-holding racks, metal funnels and power loading equipment.
- Remove any debris from the area where bags will be placed.
- Fold the open end of the unfilled portion of the bag to form a triangle. If tied bags are used, flatten or flare the tied end.
- Place the partially-filled bags lengthwise and parallel to the direction of flow. The open end should face against the water flow.
- Tuck the flaps under, keep the unfilled portion under the weight of the sack.
- Place remaining bags on top, offsetting by one-half filled length of previous bag, and stamp into place to make a tight seal.
- Stagger the joint connections when multiple layers are necessary.
- For unsupported layers over three courses high, use the pyramid placing method
Pyramid Placement is an option for anyone who wants to increase the height of sandbag protection. To do this method, follow these steps:
- Place sandbags to form a pyramid by alternating placing bags crosswise and lengthwise.
- Stamp each bag in place, overlap sacks, maintain staggered joint placement and tuck in any loose ends.
The City of Madison recommends wrapping the sandbag levee in plastic and place filled sandbags on plastic to weigh it down.
Monitor the bags
Sandbags deteriorate when exposed to continued wetting and drying for several months. If bags are placed too early, they may not be effective when needed.
The City collected bags after the 2018 flood in the fall of 2018. There is expected to be a collection in late summer/early fall of 2019.
As you remove your sandbags please note:
- Do not place full sandbags into your refuse or recycling bins.
- Do not place sandbags under leaf piles or inside leaf bags for yard waste crews.
- The City is unable to enter private property to collect sand bags. Private property owners are responsible for locating sandbags to the terrace in front of their home prior to scheduled collection dates.
There are several ways to dispose of your sandbags:
- Store sandbags for future use. If your property was at risk of flooding during the flooding event, it is very possible your property will be at risk again. Be ready for the next flood event.
- Cut open sandbags and spread the sand on your property. Throw the empty bags in the refuse.
- Return sandbags to Streets East – 4602 Sycamore Ave.
- Curbside Collection has ended for fall of 2018. Do not place sandbags out for collection at this time. Another round of sandbag collection will occur in spring of 2019. Check back to this web page for updates.
The City will attempt to connect homeowners who are unable to move sandbags to the terrace with volunteers to assist. Email Hannah Mohelnitzky, Engineering Division Public Information Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (608) 242-6003.