HOUSTON Storm drains in Houston could be in for a stormy season now that thieves have targeted the road-side fixtures for scrap metal.

In recent weeks, hundreds of grates covering the drains have simply vanished in Houston, and some neighborhoods seem to have been hit especially hard.

Every corner you look is missing a grate, said John Branch, who s lived in the Independence Heights neighborhood all his life. This is a hazard because someone could drive or fall inside.

The grates weigh about 40 pounds each and cost the city about $100.

Houston s Department of Public Works is struggling to keep pace with the thieves, who appear to be stealing the grates to peddle as scrap metal.

Someone s got to see them doing this, said Alvin Wright, a spokesman for Public Works. The best thing for people to do is to record a license plate and call the police.

The city has tried installing grates with locking devices. Some private property owners have welded theirs into place. People like Branch are vowing to do their part to keep their neighbors safe.

We need to put a stop to this, said Branch.

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