Unbelievable excitement ensues as two Seattleites prepare for a baby!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Stackson stares in wonder at his flooded domain.

In some areas, water is the most valuable natural resource, a life-giving liquid - essential to the growing and harvesting of food and the sustainment of the human race. Water is essential to life - and as every child knows, water is the most prevalent substance in the human body.

To me, water is a hated, implacable enemy; an insidious, liquid Moby Dick to my frantic, bedraggled, Captain Ahab.

Normally, Seattleites make peace with water - in winters in which they are oppressed with months of drizzle, the choices are either accept the rain or go slowly insane. For years, I've been perfectly accepting - though not enthusiastic - in regards to rain, but recently that ambivalance has turned to hatred, frustration, and fear.

That transition may have taken place several weeks ago, after 27 straight days of rain, when I had my arm submurged up to the elbow down the driveway drain in a futile effort to claw out enough silt to allow it to flow freely. It may have been when I pumped away like an idiot on the side stairway drain with a toilet plunger, with the vain hope of dislodging some blockage that would keep water from pouring into our basement through the side door. I had been pretty sure the final transition took place two weeks ago, when I arrived home at midnight to find the entire garage under three inches of water - which I then laboriously bailed out with a green salad bowl over a period of four hours.

A damp outlook ...

Let me tell you, that was a bizarre four hours. Envision, if you will, from the perspective of one of several curious passersby at that desolate hour - a lone, forlorn figure, wearing a raincoat, heavy hiking boots, and an LED headlamp, kneeling on a blue foam pad, scooping ludicrously tiny amounts of water from the driveway into a flimsy plastic salad bowl and into a 5-gallon bucket, then grabbing the bucket, staggering up the driveway, and dumping the contents into the street, only to repeat moments later, the reflections of the water from his headlamp rippling eerily across the garage ceiling like a swimming pool roof when the underwater lights are on.

My mind began to crack, too, the more I stared down into the useless drain, wondering what was going on down there. For all I knew, the Titanic was down there, or the Loch Ness Monster. Or perhaps Loch Ness on the Titanic, bemoaning the unfair class system of the time and pining for Kate Winslett.

It's difficult to see in this photo, but after an hour of pumping, there was still standing water in most of the garage.

What really drove me nuts later was the realization that water was actually coming up out of the drain.

But, with a bit of fresh perspective, the true fulcrum of frustration came at 2:30 a.m. this morning, when I woke to hard, pounding rain and an even more insistent feeling that something was terribly wrong. I had cleared all of the water twice last night; but even so, when I ventured downstairs, I found that the entire garage was flooded five inches deep - and we were taking on standing water in our family room from both the stairway and the garage. At least it would have been standing had it not been cascading through the room with its own waves crashing on the couch and the entertainment center, and the little Stackson furballs floating around displaying the various currents at work.

Now, following the events of two weeks ago, Leigh and I had not been ignoring the problem. The day after my four-hour bailing effort with the salad bowl, I went to Home Depot and bought a spiffy little submersible pump that proved very handy in piping the water through a garden hose up to the street.

Plus, we called in Fritz, the erratic and moody woman-hating German drain genius. After snaking the two outside drains, he told us there was nothing we could do. Evidently the kitchen and the two outside drains run in a pipe through the front yard and empty into the storm drain. Unfortunately, roots had deflected the pipe, meaning the drains just emptied into the front yard - or, conversely, when the water table was high enough, the front yard drained into the driveway. Fritz advised us to dig up the front yard, reconnect the drains, and hope for the best. We couldn't afford that option and foolishly figured that as things dried up, the water table dropped, and with the help of our new pump, we'd be able to keep up with things until we hit a long stretch of dry weather and the problem went away until the next rainy season.

Huggies - ultra absorbent!

I wasn't feeling quite that sanguine this morning, as I tinkered with the pump for 45 minutes trying to get it to work while Rome burned (rather soggily) around me. You see, the pump can't operate if there's water and air mixed in either the hose or the assembly - a condition Flotec helpfully calls an airlock. Flotec includes on most of its pumps a small hole that you probe with a paper clip in the hopes of clearing out the airlock. Unfortunately, my pump wasn't one of those fortunate pumps - though the instructions clearly show the hole. So, while the waves continued to crash on the walls, and through to the family room, I dissassembled the pump, dried it all out carefully, shook out the hose, reassembled, and finally got everything to work - at which point the poor little pump began its three-hour fight against an ocean of water.

Once I knew the pump was on the job and slowly siphoning away the breakers that were crashing through to the family room, I woke Leigh for some assistance. After she calmly expressed her surprise and dismay at the situation, we began soaking up as much as we could. We rapidly went through our available towel supply - and felt slightly ludicrous doing so, because it was a bit like tossing a towel into the ocean. The towel rapidly turns dark and shiny, then floats along, bobbing in the still-robust waves. After the towels came out second-string T-shirts, then we put the absorbency of Sophia's Huggies to the test. After a rocky start, they proved their mettle.

While I bailed out the side stairwell, and the pump slowly sucked the water out of the garage, Leigh tried to soak up as much water as she could - then we began a round-robin in which we gathered up the most thoroughly soaked towels, wrung them out in the bathroom, tossed them in the dryer, and then returned them to the fray.

Huggies are made up of some funky gel, but boy does that gel absorb water ...

As of 7:12 a.m., as I write this paragraph, we finally appear to be out of the worst of it - which is the only reason I'm taking the time to write this. Leigh is back up in bed resting up for what will no doubt be a long day. The pump finally expelled all of the water out of the garage (though water continues to boil up out of the drain. The first dryer load finished, and the rejuvenated towels helped me get the rec room floor virtually dry - though I still need to finish drying some of the wiring that has been marinating behind the entertainment center, which was unplugged with severe trepidation early in the crisis.

I've already called in to work to take the day off so we can finish the cleanup and begin calling in contractors. No matter the expense this time, we're getting everything resolved - including ensuring the house gets thoroughly dry so that mold doesn't get a foothold.

And, thankfully, the rain has stopped - for now.


An update, as of 8:15 - it has begun to rain again, and I've had to pump twice more to keep everything clear. More updates as events warrant.


Blogger mrclm said...

Run to Sears/Home Depot/Lowe's and buy a dehumidifier (or borrow one). They pay for themselves in what they help dry out before it gets ruined. We had some water in one room in our basement last fall (it was just an inch, but it was a carpeted room) and the dehumidifier was awesome. We ran a couple of box fans at the same time, and it really helped.

Big Chris

2:08 PM

Blogger Unca Jim said...

Just got an update from Grandma Cathy. Can't believe that outgoing drains were just left to dump into the soil. Somebody definitely messed up, if you'll pardon the expression. Hope you are now on the road to righting the ship. And please send the rain to western SD. We're dry as a Baptist picnic here.

9:08 AM

Blogger Sharon said...

Been there! Put in a sump pump and drainage system, and $3,000 later our basement is dry! And,yes, rent a dehumidifyer - we got one from Handy Andy.

2:40 PM

Blogger Senihele said...

Oh gosh, Chris. I haven't checked in lately. I hope things have improved and repairs have been made. :(


7:21 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just checking in to say "Hi" and to say that I really enjoy reading your updates.

Dottie Sue (Tim, and the cowboys)

9:20 AM


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