At least we had a ladder…

Posted by Nate in Day to Day, Homeowners.
Monday, October 10th, 2005 at 3:26 pm

This is a late post, but since I took pains to try to document it while it was happening it’s worth putting up.

Last Tuesday, the 4th, dawned cool and foggy. Patchy rain throughout the day, then it seemed to let let up. I came home from work and was walking Bruno – about 6:30 – when it started to rain again. We hustled home, a bit wet, and got inside as it continued to rain. Earlier that day I had picked up our Fruit Share, apples and pears, and I decided to make an apple pie while Karen was at work. The rain kept falling, now joined by some huge peals of thunder. Bruno was a little nervous but much better than I expected, mostly just wanted to be right near me. I pulled his day bed near the kitchen and he seemed fine, getting up often to check everything out.

The pie made it into the oven and was almost ready to come out when I noticed there was quite a bit of rain coming in through the kitchen window–it was filling up the window well between the storm and the interior glass! I assumed somehow the window was open on the outside and began fiddling with it, but it seemed tight and every time I touched it it was letting in more and more water. The window well was about to overflow so I ran downstairs and grabbed a bucket and some siphon tubing from my homebrewing equipment. The water continued to pour in but was kept mostly off the counter by the siphon – but the bucket was filling up fast! I emptied two buckets, probably 2 gallons each time, before I realized I was going to lose this battle with the rain. I had to gain some time to get outside to assess the situation, so I ran back downstairs to grab a bigger tub (pictured).

While I was down there I noticed water entering the basement from the wall under the window. I know flooded basements happen, but man did my heart sink when I saw that trickle of water coming in… I mean, come on!! We haven’t even been here two months! I know some water is eventually going to get in there, but have the decency to wait!

Well, it wasn’t waiting. I got the tub situated under the kitchen window, threw on my quick-dry nylon pants and some old running shoes, and headed out into the storm. I was instantly drenched. There was at least an inch of standing water in our backyard, and in places it was creeping up the foundation. Aaargh! I pulled our free-on-Craigslist ladder out and went around the side of the house with the kitchen window. The eves there are much smaller than the rest of the house, and I could see water just gushing over the gutter, down the side of the house, and right into the window – the gutters and drains were clogged with fall leaves. Much cursing, careful balancing, and dinged up hands later, I had the gutter and drainspout cleared and water was now shooting forcefully out onto the lawn. I proceeded to the other four drains and did the same, feeling like the worst was over.

But it wasn’t. I checked the forecast online and the radar showed no end in sight. Here’s a writeup on how rare this amount of rain was for October… (hint: very rare).

I ran back upstairs and outside to find the low spot at the foot of the stairs was beyond full and a few inches of water was lapping at the foundation. I knew from the previous owner that corner was prone to flooding, so I panicked and started bailing out the low spot. (by bailing, I mean I found a metal container for a paint roller and was throwing the water into the middle of the lawn). For a brief moment the rain let up and I was able to clear nearly all the standing water out. Whew. Then it started again. Buckets of rain. I was totally unable to keep up by bailing, so I ran a hose from the growing lake down into the basement sink and tried to start another siphon. For whatever reason – clogging? The hose too soft to hold pressure? – the siphon wouldn’t hold for long, and it was back to cursing and bailing. I took some pictures during this time but it was too dark and they didn’t turn out.

Here’s the aftermath:
On the left you can see the puddle the next day where I was bailing from. On the right is the outer ring of water from the bailing efforts – the leaves sort of define the splash zone. Crazy. What lessons can be learned?

  • Clean your gutters when the forecast calls for rain in the fall.
  • Have homebrewing gear sitting around and be comfortable with siphoning. ;)
  • Don’t overreact. I probably could have let the backyard go a bit and not had any more flooding.
  • Never leave your house! Obviously impractical, but I shudder to think of the damage if I hadn’t been there to catch the kitchen flooding before it got bad.
  • Double up the crust on the edge of your pies:

(the pie turned out great) The end.

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3 Responses to “At least we had a ladder…”

  1. M&R Says:

    Yikes! You’re right, it is good that you were home to deal with all that rain. It wouldn’t have been a pretty picture otherwise. On the other hand, that pie just out of the oven is indeed a pretty picture.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    You might want to clean the gutters in the spring too after all the trees have dropped their seeds, etc—and more often if you have a neighbor who practices his golf shots in his yard aiming in the direction of your house–right Karen?

  3. answer-man Says:

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