14 September 2011

And then the rains came

It’s hurricane season on the east coast. Every week or so the news outlets start mumbling about the next storm brewing off the coast of Florida or in the Caribbean. Most of them pass by without event, or even precipitation. The highly anticipated Hurricane Irene, which did serious damage further north, only brought some wind to Central PA. A few trees were toppled in the surrounding neighborhood. They landed on some power lines and we lost our electricity for a few hours.

But the greater, more lasting, impact so far came from an unassuming tropical storm named Lee. This weather system brought rain that sat on us for days. On Tuesday we had some mild leaks in the basement. We remedied the damp cement floor with fans.  Twenty-four hours later the water was dribbling with enthusiasm through holes we didn’t know existed. The storm water drains in the city were beyond capacity. Manhole covers were blown off and the excess water couldn’t be contained. The water had nowhere to go, but up. And it did, into basements, garages, homes, and businesses. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated in York and the surrounding counties. Roads closed, or had sections wash away.

Our basement took on a very small portion of the storm drain’s excess. Because our sump pump have given up the ghost years ago and was slowly decaying in the corner, we used our shop vacuum to suck the water off the basement floor. (I ventured out into the rain once in search of a replacement pump, but so did everyone else in the city. There was not a sump pump available for purchase within 75 miles.)

We rested the vacuum on the corner of the washing machine, sucked 16 gallons at a time into it, and then drained the water into the washer. After three vacuums full, the washing machine was at capacity. A quick turn on the spin cycle drained the water. After 10 hours of sucking and draining, we were just barely able to keep up with the flow.

Our neighbors were not so lucky. They had open drains to the sewer lines in their basement floors. When the storm drains overflowed, thousands of gallons were pushed up into their basements. Our two neighbors to the north got over three feet of water each.  While they lost most of their stored belongings, we mostly just lost time. Not a bad deal overall.

On the positive side, our basement floor is very clean now. We dumped half a bottle of bleach into the standing water to prevent mold growth.

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