Sunday, November 16, 2008


Last week there were quite a few areas flooded around where we live due to heavy rains which caused local rivers to overflow their banks. Of course I was feeling a bit smug at the time because we live in an area that is fairly high and dry, however, the smugness went away pretty quickly yesterday morning when the spouse did a load of laundry and water started pouring all over our downstairs. Although we hadn't caught the floods from the heavy rains, a backed up main line gave us a taste of what many thousands of people go through each fall and winter around our country when floods hit their towns. It wasn't pretty. Here's how (again) being prepared helped out quite a bit...
  1. As soon as we realized what happened, we were able to stop even more water from flooding the basement by stopping the washer, however 20 or more gallons of water poured out before we realized what happened. Granted in a flood, you can't stop the water from going where it wants, however, if you do live in a flood-prone area, having sand and sandbags at the ready will help with the situation.

  2. We quickly assessed the damage. The only things that were in the water were the washer, dryer and a small bathroom. Some carpet in the family room also got wet which we immediately tried to block with towels. If there would have been furniture or other items that would be permanently damaged from the water, our first priority would have been to move these items to higher ground. During an actual flood, people often have to gather as much as they can and move the items upstairs or up on counter tops/other furniture--obviously a bad situation if you live in a one story home and ALL of your stuff is wading in the water.

  3. Good: we had a plumber friend on speed dial. Bad: plumber friend was out of town. We debated between doing the work ourselves which would have entailed renting an auger, taking out the toilet, auguring the main drain line, and putting the toilet back on. I called around and for a fee of $250 we could have the work done. Good: we had an emergency fund so paying for the work instead of doing it ourselves was the option we were able to chose. Bad: the random plumber out of the phone book did a not so great job. I can't imagine how people handle major reconstruction work after a serious flood when you have to deal with a variety of sub-contractors, many of whom know you are desperate and thus can easily take advantage of the situation.

  4. After the line was cleaned and things were put back together, clean up was our next task. Fortunately we had the items on hand to clean up the mess (a shop vac, lots of old towels, rubber gloves, cleaner, and fans to help dry out the wet carpet) but it still entailed a lot of work.

What we learned:

  • It's good to mitigate the damage as much as possible; the less damage, the less that needs to be fixed/repaired.

  • Preventive maintenance is a good thing. We thought there were some problems with the drain but dismissed them until something big happened. Dumb.

  • Even though we had one plumber we could call, it makes sense to have a back up in case the person you are relying on is gone instead of picking someone randomly out of the phone book.

  • The bigger the emergency fund, the better your options.

  • I should have probably just done the work myself instead of being lazy and hiring it done.

  • Even if you don't live in a danger-prone area, the more organized and together your important things (papers, art work, antiques, etc) are, the easier it is to pick it up and move it or evacuate with it.

  • Clean up is hard work. Everything is a mess and each item you pick up needs to be washed/sterilized/etc which really brings home the importance of helping others when disaster strikes.

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