Sunday, December 12, 2010

Newspaper column

Rewind the clock about five years, and my real estate agent was mentioning something about the house my husband and I were touring being located in a flood zone.

I remember asking what the extra insurance might cost annually, but her answer didn't matter. Did you see that gorgeous built-in china cabinet in the dining room? What about the high ceilings? And so much closet space!

According to the seller's disclosure form we were given, the house had only flooded once in the past 11 years, and that was when remnants of hurricane Ivan pretty much washed out the entire region.

And, as luck would have it, the basement was completely redone afterward -- including a brand new furnace. Score!

The first year in our new home, we checked the sump pump every time the forecast called for dew. But after a few storms only produced small puddles in our back yard and not a drop indoors, we relaxed. To be honest, I had almost forgotten about it entirely.

So when my husband called with concern that all of our daughter's Christmas presents were in bags on the basement floor during the heavy rain last week, I nearly dismissed him.

Instead, I indulged his request to check. When I rounded the corner to discend the bottom steps to the basement, I stopped short. There was water throughout the entire space, and it was visibly rising through a small crack in the floor.

I think I managed to mumble, "Oh my God, I have to go" before hanging up the phone and dropping it on the landing.

Unfortunately for Jerry, I had slipped on his brand new sneakers to cover my bare feet during what was presumambly going to be a quick inspection. I tried gingerly stepping in what few dry spaces remained, but it was no use. When I opened the door to check the second room, more water gushed out, covering my feet up to my ankles.

The icy sensation wasn't the most shocking part. Seeing all of our things submerged in water was.

I tried to salvage the presents first and ended up holding up boxes of toys long enough for the water to drain out. Then I looked around to survey the rest of our belongings and I just wanted to cry. All of the things we had been storing for our soon-to-arrive new baby were soaked.

I felt totally helpless.

In a panic, I called Jerry back to tell him the news, which he had deducted on his own after my quick departure. A plumber was on the way.

Turns out the sump pump was working, but it was overwhelmed. The plumber extended pipes away from our house so it could drain to the street rather than recycle it back into our basement.

Then the fire department showed up. A friend apparently called on my behalf, and I couldn't have been more grateful. Three volunteers helped me pick up what remained on the floor, toss some of what couldn't be salvaged and devised a temporary fix for the problem areas. And being in my third trimester, that was an enormous help.

Jerry and a neighbor did the brunt of the work that afternoon, hooking up a second pump and directing the water to increase its effectiveness. Little by little the water started to recede -- taking with it my anxiety.

Now that the mess has been cleaned and the damage assessed, I feel incredibly fortunate. Not only did I learn a valuable lesson about where not to store things I intend to keep, I was overwhelmed by the help and support we received from our friends and community.

From dropped-off dehumidifiers to borrowed pumps and phone calls offering assistance, I spent much of that day just saying thank you. I guess sometimes it takes a small catastrophe to remind you about all of the important things in life.

If I'm ever in a position where I'm left wondering which is which, I'll know that the things I really need are strengthened by a few inches of water. The rest can be replaced.


Kristin said...

Aww. It's such a great feeling when something goes wrong and everyone really pitches in to help. It's great to know who your true friends are(:

The Plainsman said...

Sorry to read of this unfortunate happening, but well expressed. No matter the reason for a flood, whether it be seeping ground water, a broken pipe or worse yet a muddy river invading the whole neighborhood, it can be quite a shock, take its toll. of my former hats was as a municipal emergency management coordinator and two things that often shine afterward are the resiliance of the striken who realize what is really valuable in their lives and the volunteers who give so much of their time and efforts.

Ray said...

Wow! I'm sorry that, that had to happen. But I'm glad you had so much help. Especially being in your third trimester.

Loved this: "If I'm ever in a position where I'm left wondering which is which, I'll know that the things I really need are strengthened by a few inches of water. The rest can be replaced." ;o)

Hannah B said...

Wow. I could imagine my heart sinking if I had been the one to discover that. So glad it's fixed though. And I hope not too many things got ruined.

I always hold my breath during storms. It can be really devastating here in Houston since we are so close to the gulf. In some areas it seems like just a tiny drizzle will push that area over the edge and it will start flooding. My parents' neighborhood was like that. Thankfully our house never flooded but there were a few instances where the water was knocking at the front door. Scary stuff!

Emily said...

You're one of my favourites, Kelly. One of my favourite Moms, and one of my favourite bloggers.

Things are going to get busy with two little ones, but I hope you never stop writing.

I needed those last couple lines. =)