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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Come Hell or High Water ...

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Come Hell or High Water ...

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mother nature bats last
The Hell is, thankfully, at bay for the moment, but the high water is here with a vengeance.

As reported in my last post, our bedroom ceiling is leaking profusely--I just counted 11 pots and plastic tubs arranged to catch the leaks--so we planned to spend the night down in the basement. A little after midnight, I woke up because Bobby had turned on the lights in the basement hallway. I asked what was going on, and he said he thought he'd found another leak because the carpet was wet.

Turns out it was worse. Much worse. A ceiling leak in the basement didn't make much sense, and opening up the laundry room door revealed where the problem was coming from.

When we bought our house, the home inspector noticed that our basement did not have a sump pump to remove water in the case of flooding. The previous owner--whom I have taken to calling The Lying Sonofabitch, or TLS for short--pointed to this old rickety thing outside the outdoor door to our basement, at the bottom of the outdoor stairwell. It needed to be switched on by hand--not a problem for him, since he worked from home out of his ugly living room with all the deer heads. Anyway, TLS assured us that the basement never flooded--despite a cement stairwell outdoors with no way to remove water--which we believed for about -2 seconds.

It's also important to remember that one of the repairs TLS had to make before we agreed to buy the house was mold remediation through the entire basement ... but only to about 2 feet above the floor. There was no mold problem above that point. So we figure the basement flood in a major way at least once.

Anyway, lo and behold, when TLS finishes the repairs on the house, it turns out he's installed a proper sump pump at the outdoor entrance to the basement. Out of the goodness of his heart, right? More like the first time we had even a little rain and the basement flooded, he was worried we'd sue the pants off of him for failing to properly disclose such a serious problem with the house.

The sump pump he installed has worked fine for the four years we've been here. We haven't had an unaccounted-for drop of water in the basement (except for the water leaking down from the cracked bathtub that he also lied about!) Last night, that changed. As I noted in my last post, we have had extremely heavy rains for the past two days. As of dinnertime last night, we'd received almost 5.5 inches (13 cm) here; our CoCoRaHS gauge shows that we've had an additional 3.25 inches (8 cm) since then ... but I digress. We've had a lot of feckin' rain is the point.

When Bobby opened the laundry room, there was about a half-inch (1.25 cm) of water on the floor. It quickly became apparent that the sump pump was not working. Bobby touched it, and it was burning hot; we figured the motor burned up from running nonstop the past two days. Therefore, all of the rain falling into the outdoor stairwell was pouring into the house.

Bobby and I started bailing. He took the wet vac and started sucking up water, and I found a bucket and started bailing and hauling water up the steps by hand. Despite our efforts, the water kept rising and began to spill out into the finished part of the basement and onto the carpet. It was pouring rain all the while. We quickly realized that a floor drain that is supposed to drain water out of the basement and to the sump pump was the source of most of the water. I tried several tactics to block as much of the water as I could from coming in. Bobby went to work in the outdoor stairwell, thinking that if we could clear that area of water, then perhaps the drain would work in the proper direction again and help us to remove some of the water.

For a while, this worked. I was barefoot and marking the height of the water by where it rose on my feet. When we started, just my toes were covered. By this point, it was past my toes about an inch (2.5 cm), and there it seemed to be staying. Of course, Bobby was wet-vaccing buckets full of water out of the outdoor stairwell, and I was hauling about 2 gallons per minute up the stairs in buckets. By this point, we had been working about an hour, it was 1:30 AM, and I was starting to get really tired, mostly from climbing the stairs with the buckets heavy with water. My shirt was soaking wet with sweat, even standing with cold water over the tops of my feet. After an hour and fifteen minutes, my legs were shaking so bad that I was slamming the bucket into my shins, so I told Bobby I was taking a two-minute break and sat on the stairs. I could feel the blood pounding in the palms of my hands; I am out of shape right now, but I think I hung in there pretty well, kept moving by anger at TLS and a hearty dose of adrenaline. Before I sat down, I pressed my fingernail into the top of my foot where the water level was so that I could see how it had changed or not when I went back to work.

When my two minutes were up, I sloshed back into the basement. By now, the carpets were soaked through the entire basement, and I had to move several items up off the floor so they wouldn't become damaged. When I went back into the laundry room, the water had risen an inch (2.5 cm) above the mark I'd made on my foot. We were fighting a losing battle.

I called out to Bobby and told him. He didn't want to give up. I thought it was time to start looking around the basement and moving what we could either high up or upstairs. He was white with exhaustion but wouldn't give up. Finally, he decided to call my dad to see what he recommended.

Dad agreed with me. We had to save what we could and see where we stood in the morning.

At 2:30 AM, we were soaked with rainwater, sweat, and the nasty-smelling water we'd been bailing for almost an hour and a half. We were both thirsty--ironically--and exhausted. We got into the shower to wash off the mess and laid down on the couches in the living room to try to sleep. To help us out, I gave us each some of Grandpa's Sleeping Medicine: a hefty shot of Irish whiskey. It worked and we both did sleep for about three hours.

This morning, we woke up and Bobby assessed the damage. We have about 4 inches of water throughout the entire basement. It is ankle-deep. Alex has already gotten into it twice and splashed around in it; at least someone is enjoying it.

The good news ... yes, there must be good news, even when one is sleep-deprived, still damp, and has an indoor swimming pool in the basement. Bobby called Mike the Builder first thing this morning, and he is here now, pumping out the water and replacing the sump pump. Bobby also called our insurance company, and all of the damage is covered under our policy. Bobby spoke with a claims adjustor up in Hanover, and she said she's been swamped (pun intended!) between Irene last week and Lee this week. Also, we will have her look at the ceiling in the bedroom as well and see if that might also be covered.

I just got an email from Justin Ready, the Carroll County delegate, reporting flooding throughout the county and road closures. At 1040 feet and a hop, skip, and a jump down the road from the highest point in the county, we don't worry about flooding, but it goes to show the extent of damage from this storm, which seems to have snuck up on us in the wake of Irene. Bobby also just hollered in to me that he saw on Facebook that our friends Tristan and Don, and my Aunt Lois and Uncle Jim, also have flooded basements. I'm sure that's the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Mike the Builder says that the sump pump was installed completely wrong, which is why it burned up. *shakes fist at TLS* I'd like to take those deer heads off his wall and throw them at that half-assed bastard!

Needless to say, I did not go into work today. Bobby texted our principal at 3 AM last night. Much as I love my students, they're not the kinds of kids you want to work with on three hours of sleep.

Before Mike the Builder pumps the water out of the basement, Bobby took some pictures. Actually, it looks like the water has started to recede a good bit from this morning.

The rug has floated over to the bookshelf:


When I looked downstairs this morning, firewood had floated from the laundry and into the hallway. The fire-proof moose hearth rug has floated over from in front of the woodstove. To bad it is not water-proof!



This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • Oh ouch! And, er, speaking from experience, I hope this means your outlets are ok and that you don't have to replace the drywall...
    • It doesn't seem to have gone as high as the outlets, thank goodness, although several appliances that we had in the basement seem to be ruined. The insurance should cover their replacement, but I loathe to replace something that was working just fine. It looks like we'll be replacing the bottom 2 feet of drywall; the builder we worked with on our bathroom remodel is already planning to do that for us.
  • Been there, done that. My sub-basement, where I have all of my painting and craft supplies as well as luggage, etc., has been flooded to 4+ inches several times. Now I have everything built up 4" above the floor and we built "The Barbarian Dike" around the window well that has caused true waterfalls into the room over the years. The dike is holding well after more than eight years and many, many tests in all seasons. But every time I am frightened that we might be flooded again. Actually, the last time we flooded, about a year ago on the level above this, it was a broken pipe inside the wall. I still haven't managed to get everything back into appropriate locations from that flood. You have all of my sympathy. Floods are NO fun!

    - Erulisse (one L)
    • Hear hear! That window well sounds quite the nightmare ... waterfalls on the walls ... *shudder* If it was up to me to get things back in order, it'd probably take five years. But I'm sure Bobby will manage it faster than that--thank goodness we're not both overworked procrastinators! :D
  • Oh dear. :( I am so sorry to hear this. :( And I am so sorry that I can't be of any help... :( I will just send a huge hug! And I hope that the rain won't fall any time soon again, and that you will be repair everything as soon and painless as possible. *hugs*
    • *hugs back* Things are better than they were this morning. Bobby and Mike the Builder got all of the standing water out of the basement and plugged the drain that was causing it. They replaced the sump pump. Tomorrow, Mike plans to come by to rip out the carpet.

      It's still raining though ... not as hard as it's been, but steady and, at times, pretty torrential with thunder and lightning.
  • OMG!

    I'd like to take those deer heads off his wall and throw them at that half-assed bastard!

    Yes. So would I!
  • That is a nightmare. I hope nothing was destroyed. I am so sorry that you had to go through all of that. Hope the newly destroyed sump pump works quickly and everything is safe and dry soon. I was worried about electrical shocks the entire time I was reading your saga. Everyone has their own particular terrors when it comes to this stuff.

    We are completely oversaturated here as well. There is weak sunshine for the first time in days today.

    Edited at 2011-09-08 04:31 pm (UTC)
    • Bobby tells me this mess is headed your way, so you may get the rains we've had, if you haven't already. :(

      A lot got messed up, though not as much as would have if we'd been sleeping upstairs and hadn't been able to move things like computers and electric guitars up off the floor before it was too late. As it stands, it looks like the chest freezer, washer, and dryer will have to be replaced. I haven't had the heart to ask about the furniture, which was a housewarming gift from my parents and I hope we can salvage. The carpet is being torn up tomorrow.

      We are of the same mind when it comes to the electric shocks. One of the first things we did was unplug the big appliances; once the flooding progressed through the basement, we shut off all the breakers and unplugged everything. The power strip the fishtank is plugged into gave Bobby a nasty shock before we got the breakers off. All I could think the whole time was about electricity traveling through the whole damned sodden basement floor ...
  • Oh. My. God. Those photos of the basement just about bring tears to my eyes. Seriously. And your account, too. The ceiling in your bedroom and now this. As soon as I read "I asked what was going on, and he said he thought he'd found another leak because the carpet was wet...", I knew that your basement must have flooded in a big way. :^( Given the sheer volume of rainfall, even a fully functional sump pump can be challenged. A friend of mine in Plainfield NJ reported a couple of feet of water in her basement -- despite a working sump pump -- due to the tremendous amount of rain from Irene. However, TLS' fuck-up on the pump installation...yeah. Take those deer heads and shove 'em up where the sun don't shine.

    Just a suggestion, but you might ask Mike the Builder about ways to assist the sump pump by improving drainage around your house, e.g., gutter downspouts direct water away from the foundations, a modified French drain outside by the basement entrance, or similar. The water coming up from the floor drain though...that's pretty troublesome.

    I sympathize with the dripping ceiling. I positioned a couple of buckets by the problematic chimney in the 3rd floor master bdrm (a slow drip...drip...drip), and called Mike-the-Roofer-Who-Resembles-George-Clooney to come take a look.
    • Take those deer heads and shove 'em up where the sun don't shine.

      Thanks for a much-needed laugh on this! >:^D Sadly, TLS did far worse than cost us money and convenience, so I find myself unsurprised to find out that the "kindness" he gave us in installing the sump pump without being asked to do so turned out to be fuckery. He ran the whole-house fan on a 90-degree day (which is counterproductive to the purpose of a whole-house fan), obviously with the intention of masking the radon problem in the basement on the day our inspector had testing equipment set up in the house. Of course, this is the same asshat who had his kids' playroom in said basement, with its leaking radon and mold problem. I should be glad I only had to deal with him as a home buyer.

      Turns out the water coming up from the floor is coming up from a drain that connects to a French drain ... we've gotten so much rain that there's just nowhere else for it to go. Mike and Bobby saw it seeping out of cracks in the floor. Bobby's doing some more wet-vaccing now, before we get something to eat.

      I hope your leaky roof proves easy to fix. What a pain! Why do these things always happen in bedrooms or pseudo-bedrooms?? (The leaky roof in the bedroom chased us to the basement, which then flooded ... makes me fear what will happen in the living room tonight!)
  • Oh sweetie! We had a room in MS that often flooded, but we were able to open a door and sweep the water out!

    (((hugs))) I know what it's like. I hope you are able to get some rest! So glad that your insurance is covering things-- that's not always the case with water damage!
    • When we purchased our insurance, the agent encouraged Bobby to spend a little extra for extra protection against things like a faulty sump pump and water damage. I am so, so grateful that we did, and that we kept the extra coverage even during the lean times when we were cutting everything else! I cannot imagine facing the repair bills needed to fix this problem.
  • Ugh! That's awful - sorry you are having to deal with it. Rain does seem to be coming with a vengeance.

    Reminds me of the tagline of a Colbert clip I saw (still haven't had time to actually watch the thing): one more natural disaster and we get a free blizzard. I guess it's a lot funnier when it's not your roof that's leaking!
    • Well, as the one putting up with the leaks, floods, and endless rain, I still laughed at it twice--when I read it in my email and again just now! :D

      Bobby and I were talking about winter weather today and how, if sea temperatures stay high and precipitation continues as it has, then we should expect a pretty severe winter too. If it were 30F outside right now, we'd have about 10 feet of snow from this storm! :D So Colbert may not be far from the truth!
  • Oh, no. *massive, massive hugs*
  • In July 2007 there was a massive hail storm: the stones were the size of oranges and it didn't stop for almost 20 minutes. Of course, tile roofs were destroyed (we have a tile roof). Then the weather turned dry for the rest of the winter. Roofers were the happiest people around and to get one to come and check on your roof was impossible. So time went by (and no, we never checked how bad the destruction had been - the roof is pretty high to get up without some sort of scaffolding) and one day around, I suppose, November it started raining. And it rained hard for days and days. Imagine the conditions in the top floor where the bedrooms are. The largest waterfall leak was right over Lucia's bed and her bookcase (add a hysterical teenager to the mix). When it stopped raining and the roofer finally showed up, we discovered the tiles were French. OK, the kind of tile. No, they were French from France, 60 years old and with a different size from the regular tiles. To make this long story short, we have repaired the roof but - according to the roofer who doesn't look like George Clooney unfortunately - another hail storm would mean that the whole roof would have to be changed.
    (*don't want to imagine*)
    • Yikes! As though hail the size of oranges isn't scary enough in and of itself, the resulting damage sounds like a terrible and complicated (and expensive!) mess. I'll keep my fingers crossed for no more hailstorms.

      I'm grateful that ours hasn't proven to be so complicated. And it could be so much worse, as your story illustrates! :)
  • Oh my... how was today? Did the rain stop? Did the basement got free of the water? Oh those books... by now you must have a big list to sue this this bastard. Grmbl.
    • Bobby and Mike the Builder pumped and vacuumed out most of the water on Thursday, which was an all-day job. Mike & Crew over on Friday and took up all of the carpet. The floor was still damp when we came home on Friday, briefly, before leaving for my parents' house and my cousin's wedding, but when we came home last night, the floor had mostly dried.

      The rain has, thankfully, stopped. We had occasional showers and scattered thunderstorms yesterday, but nothing like we've had for the past few days. When we came home, the ceiling wasn't leaking, so the rain couldn't have been bad.

      Thankfully, I don't think the water rose to damage any of the books. Although I'm wondering if there were books in boxes in the storage part of the basement and how they fared ... :(
  • Holy shit. We didn't get too much flooding in the basement-- just the usual in the usual places-- definitely nothing enough to get firewood to float. Will the things sitting in the water (like the bookshelves) be okay, or will you have to scrap them?

    • We still have to assess the damage to the furniture and see what will survive and what will have to be replaced. The carpet is out--boy, did that smell horrible!--and the floor is now dry ... both good things! :)

      My cousin's wedding was yesterday, and I was terrified to see what appeared to be a ball of fire looming over the ceremony, high in the firmament, casting the surroundings with heat and light! Woe betide! :D
  • Oh ack, :(

    What, no hair piccie? *Pouts*
  • Oh, man. I am so sorry. That just sucks. Natural disaster is one thing; human lying/nondisclosure/ineptitude is another. I totally empathize with your frustration.

    We're having our own version of that on a much, MUCH more minor level...Our building has a roof leak which was draining through our bedroom ceiling along the exterior wall (and we're not even the top floor!) and also coming in through our window frame. The cosmetic aspect was annoying...but then it started to mold. Patrick is asthmatic, so then it became a serious issue. It first became noticeable during a N'oreaster last year, and it took until *february* for the mgmt co. to get off their asses and attend to it, which also involved evicting us from our bedroom for a week while they scraped, replastered and repainted-- all the while assuring us that they had dealt with the leak as well.

    It took about 2 hours of Irene's incessant rain to prove otherwise. We are right back where we started. The roof still leaks. Our ceiling still rains when it rains outside. The telltale black speckles are starting to appear where the old infestation was. Ugh.
  • Sooo sorry you're in this mess! I've been dealing with a flooded basement several times in my life already and it's always awful (I don't have living quarters in the basement, so it's not as bad as your situation). At least your insurance covers the damage - so that's one thing you don't have to worry about.
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