Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Personal Disaster


Some areas are underwater and others were not. It's hard to assess the extent of the damage at night, and so quickly.

  As my regular readers know, I really do pride myself on being ready for most situations, and it's no wonder.  Again and again over the years, my family has been challenged by one thing after another.  Serious illnesses,  three earthquakes, the latest of which was a 5.8 with the epicenter in a neighboring county, local tornadoes, hurricanes which wiped out power in our region for three weeks, and winter storms have kept us busy.  Since we have a farm and might need to evacuate animals, wildfire is a big concern here.  About the only thing we don't worry too much about here is flooding.  The farm is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We are miles from a significant river.  The house, and the outbuildings sit above the acreage here.  We have a number of acres cleared around the house, barn, kennel and garage, but then thirsty forest surrounds it all for many acres.  The full basement here, which is finished, has a lifetime B-dry system and so nothing short of a flood of Biblical proportions would afflict us.   Building the house in this manner was smart from a standpoint of avoiding flood, but it wasn't so smart from a standpoint of lightning.  Apparently, we live in an area with quartz, iron, and old goldmines in the region, and when we built structures on hills we became sitting ducks to lightning.   One of my sons was struck by lightning in 2011 inside a solid building here.  He survived, but is still having significant disabling medical problems as a result.  The next step was to have a lightning abatement contractor work on each building as well as the house and tallest trees.
                  I normally go to bed fairly early as I need to be up early to take care of horses, alpacas, dogs, ducks, chickens and cats.  This evening I was unsettled.  Last week I broke a molar and I plan to see the dentist in about a week as I need to hold on to my money to replace the compressor in our refrigerator. We have been without a frij for two weeks while repairmen negotiated who would come all the way out here, and whether we really needed an Electrolux certified repairman or not.  The tooth was fine for a couple of days and now tonight, there is nerve pain.  By midnight, I couldn't shut it out and I was tossing and turning. From the master bedroom, you can hear water as it's being drawn from the spigots outside the house, or from the barn or kennel.  It's a sound rather like heat or air conditioning coming through ductwork.  I don't mind that I can hear it because I have been able to catch when someone has left a hose on, once in a great while.  At midnight I heard that sound.  I assumed that my son who doesn't sleep well post the lightning strike was showering. When the shower went on past twenty minutes, I mentioned it to my husband who was trying to sleep. When it continued past thirty minutes I became convinced that someone had left water on in a barn or perhaps the kennel.  We keep alpaca water in tanks with a separate pump and periodically we fill that too.  Perhaps my husband left it on ?  When my husband woke up, he also listened to the sound, and decided to check out the barn, the kennel and the other buildings.  That took twenty minutes and the sound continued.  When he came back to the house he was concerned.  He decided to check the lower level despite the fact that we believed two of our sons to be asleep in bedrooms on the lower level.  When we got there, he found water quickly filling the lower level.  The finished basement houses many of our most valuable areas.  There is an art studio with projects and paintings. There are several bedrooms, a large bathroom, a homeschooling room we call "the library", a workshop, a mechanical room with house essential systems, a walk in linen closet, two off season clothes closets, a family room, a large hallway,  and a rather well appointed and large disaster supply room.  There was some confusion upon the discovery of about 500 gallons of water on the oak floors. The red metal handle which we were told was a total water shutoff to the entire house when we built it, did not function as such.  Water kept on coming.  It took us about six more minutes to stop the water from pouring into the house, like a ship that had sprung a leak.  "Oh my God !" I thought.  I am standing in water and there are a number of live  electrical cords in contact with that water !
Fortunately, we were able to disable those electrical outlets while preserving the lights above our heads.  This is when you wish to know that your electrical box is correctly marked !
                   In our finished basement there is a closet in which a plumbing junction box of sorts is located. When the barn, the kennel and two other outbuildings were built, this is where the plumbing connection from the house branches off from the house where it is buried underground to each of the buildings.  Inside there is a plastic to plastic connection which somehow came loose and has allowed a substantial amount of water into the house.  My eldest son repaired the plumbing issue by installing a bronze plumbing fixture to the plastic fixture, and it appears to be functioning properly now.   However, there is such significant damage, I just want to sit and cry.   I called Nationwide Insurance at one am, for guidance as much as for encouragement.  They related that we are covered for an immediate pipe malfunction such as this, and their opinion was that we needed to call Servpro or a similar company to suck out as much of this water immediately as possible in order to avoid mold. They are apparently a 24 hour operation.   My husband doesn't want to do this, and so he is sucking up as much water as possible using a large wet vac.  He worries that our already pricey homeowners will go up with a claim or worse, that they will cancel us.   Being allergic to mold this is a chance I am not willing to take.  There is water underneath the oak floors and unquestionably the lining underneath designed to minimize the clacking noise while walking on the wood is saturated.  Nationwide also said that we should have had a flood detector in the closet where the plumbing junction box is located.
                 My greatest sorrows is not only the probably loss of the oak floors in the basement, but a lot of supplies and food in the disaster supply room.  Did you know that fifty pounds of rice absorbs water really well, saving other items ?   Two giant bags of flour waiting to be placed in plastic buckets, and a large carrier bag of sugar also became saturated, and were thrown out.   I was able to rescue a box of photographs in frames in a box.  Some were wet, but they were wiped quickly.   Many things in the disaster supply room were in shelves or were above the water.  The items on those rolling shelves from Sam's Club are fine.
Some homeschooling books in a box on the floor of the library were not so lucky.  The softcover books were destroyed.
                I am most upset however, that my husband is fine taking the chance that mold could grow in this house rendering it impossible for me to live here.  To me, that places money above the people who live here.
I plan to call Servpro in the morning, and find out how much they would charge to assess the situation.  We have also set up a number of large fans that we would normally use for the alpacas in Summer.

               This is what I learned tonight...

  1.  When plumbing modifications are made for an addition, garage or anything else, consider having a flood detector installed in the region where the modifications were made.
  2.   Verify water shut offs in advance of an emergency and make sure everyone who is a teen or adult knows how to find them and use them.
  3.   Try to get all disaster supplies on shelves asap.   The temptation to use floorspace is great, but resist this whenever you can.
 4. Consider calling Servpro or a similar service, without first consulting your husband or wife.  My husband has a history of not seeing potentials in disaster and for minimizing circumstances.  He is a good man who can't see trouble coming. A lot of people are just like this.
5. Do what you need to do to preserve your home and property.
6. Everyone should own a Home Depot or Lowes  wet vac for just such emergencies.  It's too late to think about buying one in the middle of the night.   Everyone should own some good fans for just such emergencies also.
7. Find out how well you are covered with regard to homeowners insurance, for an incident very similar to this one.  Nationwide said this is a common occurence.
8. Friends tell me that they have had similar things happen when dishwashers have failed or when washing machine hoses have leaked.  Perhaps you should check both of those in your home now.

          We were very lucky that this is fresh clean water.  I hope my husband made the right call.


  UPDATE:  After two hours of sleep I convinced my husband to allow me to call Serve-Pro for at least an assessment of what they believe will be necessary to prevent mold.  They told us we have already done a substantial amount of work all night.  The technician will be here to check everything and advise us with the wood floors, in fifteen more minutes !  
Many things in the disaster supply room are destroyed, however paintings and watercolors my eldest son did were stored high enough that they are intact.  One small oriental rug is drying outside. 


Dani said...

Ah, Jane - I'm so sorry to hear of this.

Although mould is not life threatening for me, I do react to it, so can totally empathize.

We made a conscious decision to install "farmhouse" style clay tiles on our lower floor - if flooding should ever occur, only the (mainly legs of the ) furniture will get wet.

Hope you have warm sunny days, so that you can dry everything out.

BBC said...

Boy, it sounds like a lot more has happened to you than has happened to me in my lifetime.

Good luck with it...

BBC said...


JaneofVirginia said...

I realize it could have been a lot worse. I cold have been asleep when it happened, or it could have been sewage rather than clean fresh water. Still, to me it is a disaster !

JaneofVirginia said...

Yes, we certainly have had some bad luck right beside our good luck !

JaneofVirginia said...

Dani, Thanks for your kind wishes. I thought about clay tile or another variety. Part of our basement in the last house was done that way. We didn't because two of the kids were young enough to still injure themselves, and an elbow on clay tile will shatter more easily than on wood. one ever fell on the floor and we did have a flood, and so your was the better decision ! I need to decide what should go down there now.
It's going to be hard to dry things right now, as we have a hurricane coming through.
I did get my husband to agree to Serv-Pro. They are coming out later in the day to assess the house, the floors, and to sanitize it to prevent mold. I will still pay for it though because I now have a high deductible on my homeowner's insurance.
Funny, I planned for flooding at our house by the sea, but not our house in the mountains. Now the one in the mountains has flooded !

DFW said...


I hate to hear this. My husband just changed our washing machine hoses just to be on the safe side as they were becoming dry. I like the idea of a flood detector, didn't know one even existed.

I have friends when they were on vacation, their hot water heater sprung a leak & spilled 100 gallons of hot water & kept running although no longer hot. It peeled the wallpaper off the walls in the kitchen & dining area. They had to replace everything, even the ceilings due to the steam. Weird thing is, that the neighbor who was 'watching' the house kept wondering why there was water running down the driveway for days. He just did what he was told & 'watched'. I don't think he will be asked to do that again.

Hope the Serve-Pro guys get there & will be able to tell you what to do to avoid mold & to help dry everything out.

Just goes to show you that when you hear a sound that isn't normal, it needs to be checked out. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Jane, my heart goes out to you! This is a blow on top of many others and I pray that you will be able to get it taken care of and that mold will not become an issue.
In January I had a similar thing happen in my basement, cost me thousands when it was all said and done.
Glad that you have insurance!!!

Gorges Smythe said...

There's nothing that I can say to make you feel better,, but I CAN pray that damage remains no worse than it already is.

kymber said...

oh Jane - i sooo feel your pain. when our basement flooded the first year that we were here...we lost so much. it was heartbreaking. so i understand all of the priceless valuables that you lost. they cannot be replaced. oh my heart goes out to you!

your friend,
(but even after all of your tragedy you still managed to turn it into a prepping post. thanks for that Jane!)

JaneofVirginia said...

We have insurance, but using it will drive our premiums up. In addition, with a $2500. deductible, we will be paying for plenty. Our strategy is to do as much as we can and have servpro do the things we cannot.

JaneofVirginia said...

Gorges, Your post and your prayer does make me feel better. Thank you so much.

JaneofVirginia said...

I am so sorry the basement flooded ! I did not know that. It's such a lovely basement. So much important storage ! I think it may be God's way of reminded us that all we take from this Earth is what we carry within our hearts.
You are welcome for the prepping post. I try to pass on things I've learned during our precarious journey to Earth !

Linda said...

Watched the water for days! I would not feel safe even living next door to that idiot.

Linda said...

This is just horrible. My washer was pouring water when I ran back home from church one night. I waded through water and turned on a light before I realized it was water. It's a wonder I was not electrocuted. I did manage to hop on the washer and turn off the water. The house I live in now has a basement that is just for work stuff. One day, all the water from sink, dishwasher, washing machine, and bath tub emptied into the basement. This 112-yr-old home only had the commodes connected to the sewer. ??? The rest went through a pipe in the yard to spread the water underground. When the water was six inches in the basement, I found it. Nothing of value was down there. Even the lawnmower survived the flood. I always wondered why the hot water heater in the basement was on cinder blocks. Then, I figured it out. At least I had concrete floors and walls with a drain in the floor.

I am with you about mitigating water damage quickly. I am sorry you lost as much as you did. I do have the wet vac, but extra hoses are necessary to really remove the water more easily. You should point out that a pair of rubber boots makes walking in water safer in case of water touching electric wiring.

JaneofVirginia said...

Linda, I'm sorry this type of challenge is well known to you too !
That's an excellent point about rubber boots. We have those, but at 12:20 am, upon discovery of our own underwater nightmare, I don't think either of us were thinking clearly !
The interesting thing is that the Servpro gentleman told us that today, when most people see flooding, rather than doing anything about it, they run. Then they call ServPro, often after calling their homeowner's insurance company.
That is fascinating that the neighbor about which DFW related information, watched water coming down the driveway without investigating. What did he think he was watching the house for, invasion by zombies ?