One normal Thursday morning, after waking up normally from a rainy and stormy night’s sleep, I sauntered down the stairs and stopped short when I could see out the window. All I could see was water. Literally. I was paralyzed for a minute – not sure if I should tell John that there was no way we were going to make it out of our driveway for work or if I should let him enjoy the last few minutes of his shower. I started thinking how lucky it was that we had 2 pumps running and that if we lost power, our generator would kick in, so we had nothing to worry about with water in our basement.
The view of our driveway – you can tell where it ends by the garbage pails
Then I heard a weird sound – like someone had left a faucet on in our basement. I had a mini-heart attack as I ran to the basement door, praying that we wouldn’t have any little bits of seepage in our basement. Ha!
At that point, our basement was filled with water – it was probably about 4-5 feet from the floor. I think I screamed, then muffled it because I didn’t want to wake the kids for the last few minutes that we would have before they woke up and I figured we’d better have a plan in place before that happened. So much for John’s peaceful shower. I ran up to get him. I told him that there were about 4 feet of water in the basement (the one instance in my life where I somehow did not exaggerate – and probably underestimated) and that he needed to come fast. He asked me what was ruined. I was like, um, everything? I can’t tell? I think he was picturing that water had seeped in from the floor about 4 feet from the door. He opened the basement door and screamed at the top of his lungs (and somehow didn’t wake the kids). The sight was rather shocking.
The view of our basement stairs – not at its worst
This was about the level we saw when we first discovered the problem – too late to do anything or try to rescue anything. The rain kept coming for the next 2 hours and we were watching the water level rise. It was scary – I thought it was going to get to our first floor. At its worst, we had 2 dry steps from the top and about 5 inches from the basement ceiling.
My heart broke when I remembered that our wedding album was down there. It was packed in tupperware bin high off the floor (you know, in case we ever got water in our basement) – but with water at this height…nothing was high enough off of the floor. In the photo above, you can see cookbooks floating. That was one of our most painful casualties. John loves cookbooks and every birthday/Christmas he asks for 5-10 of them. He’s collected quite a collection (and not a cheap one) over the past few years. All but 3 (that we had used in the previous week and lazily kept in the kitchen) were destroyed.
Our garage had a foot of water. We are thankful that the “little” car was miraculously at work. (We needed to drive separately one morning earlier in the week and then I had a headache for the commute home so I figured we should all drive home together.)
That’s our garage – yes it’s submerged in about 12 inches of water.
The view out the front window – of the intersection one house away.
When the kids got up, we had fun looking out the window at the crazy car that thought he could make it to work. This car got stuck, the guy (in his suit) got out and left his car stranded there.
The view to the right…not everyone’s property line was under water, but ours was. See the Mercedes that got stuck in the water? The guy came back mid-morning to retrieve his gold clubs.
Our backyard – the sandbox WAS centered between the two large trees
Poor Howie! His options for his morning business were limited to the deck and the front stoop. Neither of those options really appealed to him.
And here’s where we think the problem was. The drain at the bottom of our deck stairs was clogged. Even if it hadn’t been, I don’t know if it could have withstood all the rain that we got. It came in through our basement door.
The view of our back steps
So we spent the morning literally stranded in our house. We couldn’t get step foot out of our house because there was so much water everywhere. By 11:30, the water was completely gone off the street. Since it had been trash day, there was trash littered all over our yard and the street since everyone’s trash had gone floating away.
The governor was 4 blocks from our house – you know, to declare the area a disaster zone. Maybe we would have gone to see him – oh wait, if WE COULD HAVE GOTTEN OUT OF OUR HOUSE.
My mom didn’t have school and my dad wasn’t working so I begged them to come help and they came over with pizza, garbage bags and water bottles. They helped us pump the rest of the water out of the basement and then we took stock. Water heater – done. Furnace – kaput. With those two things out of commission, we weren’t able to stay in our house – it was COLD – like in the high 30s. We couldn’t have our kids sleeping in our house. Thank goodness Nana & Nonno live so close by!
With Ann and Dan out of town, Reggie was already at their house – and they were happy to more than double their household count with our family crashing in for 2 nights while we got things back up and running.
Howie, Reggie & Teddy. Nana & Nonno had a full house during flood-a-palooza.
We didn’t REALLY get a chance to take stock until the next day. I had been thinking that everything down there would be a total loss – in case there was sewage. But we were very lucky in that regard – it was just dirty water. We were able to salvage almost everything except books and photos. Oh, and my diploma. And our passports (you know the ones that we thought were on the second floor of our house and that we will need within 5 weeks of discovering). And my frozen breastmilk. It was a fast-dwindling stash but it was enough to get Lizzie and I through one more month before we’d need to really start supplementing with formula…GONE. (My body worked HARD to make that for her.)
Working in insurance, I occasionally get to see photos of houses damaged from various sources. Often, I think, who are these slobs? Now I understand. They are people just like me. They’re almost organized and then something goes awry. Look at these photos and tell me that you don’t think I’m a complete slob. I promise you – my basement was picture perfect but it was in decent shape. All items were at least in boxes or stacked in nice piles in the storage room. (I’m just thankful I wasn’t in the middle of six loads of laundry.)
Our basement storage room
Notice the fridge (and freezer way in the back) both on their backs? The water floated them up onto their backs.
The finished half of our basement
Half of our storage room stuff floated into the finished section of our basement. Look at all the dirt on the walls. You can see the line a few inches from the ceiling. That is how high the water got. For perspective, the black furniture on the right of the photo (going out of the photo) was the tv stand that had been against the wall. The couch wasn’t on top of things – it was nicely arranged in the middle of the room with no junk on it. I thought it was crazy that the couch flipped around and somehow got wedged ON TOP OF the patio furniture that we’d been storing behind it for the winter. The white bookshelf had been on the wall right in front of the stairs.
Our basement bathroom
Looks like the right place to make your clothes clean…
The ruined boardgames stowed “safely” 5 feet about the floor
After Thursday’s disaster, we took Friday off of work. We brought the kids to daycare and Nana, John and I started going through things with the trash bags. Our goal: clear a path to the furnace so that the repair guys could get to it. Mission accomplished.
Grandma & Grandpa came for the weekend to help with the clean up. And then they came the weekend after that to help with the clean up.
We called the contractor to re-do the drywall in our basement. We had our couch professionally cleaned (and we think saved).
We have made so much progress. And we have SO MUCH left to do. It’s been 4 weeks since this happened and we might be halfway whole again. Maybe.
Thanks so much to everyone who did help us out. We seriously couldn’t have done what we have so far without you – especially with the crazy kids to be watching.
When I think of all the Christmas and other holiday items that need to be washed, I feel sick to my stomach. I think if I took about 3 days off of work and had an assistant, MAYBE I could get it all done. Maybe.
I think the shell shock has worn off but we’re a little scared to ever go out of town again. On a positive note, this is a wonderful opportunity to completely evaluate everything we own and whether it’s worth owning. Of course, our wedding album and my breastmilk probably wouldn’t have been part of the “purge” pile. But we had a box of 90 heavy duty trash bags. We used them all. And then some. Maybe some time we will be organized – if we ever finish!