Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Water in the Desert Not Always Welcome

Tooele sits on the border of Utah's western desert, so rain is always welcome. Well, almost always. I've had to rethink that sentiment over the last few days.

Memorial Day was very memorable for me and many other residents of Tooele, Utah. We had rainstorms the likes of which I've not seen since we moved here five years ago. In a matter of just a few hours, we had received twenty percent of our annual rainfall. The ground was saturated and simply couldn't hold any more water, and flooding was rampant. Several homes in my neighborhood were affected, including my own.

With it raining so hard, my wife and I were checking the windows to make sure they were all closed. My wife went downstairs to check the basement windows, and noticed that our daughters' window wasn't closed enough that we could lock it. She opened the window slightly, and then hurried and shut it tight when water started coming through the window. It was dark down there, and my wife didn't think much of it at first.

Not long after, my oldest daughter came upstairs and said, "Dad, water's coming in through my window." Rats. We had a pipe burst a couple of years ago and her room had flooded then, so all sorts of remembered frustrations came to mind. I went downstairs, saw the water leaking into her room from around the window, and hurried and pulled the drapes down so I could figure out where it was coming from. I was stunned to see a good 12 inches or so of water in the window well, pouring in from around one side of the window casing.

We got several towels to help stem the tide, but it was pretty obvious they wouldn't be enough. She and her younger sister started pulling their stuff out of the room, to prevent further water damage. My wife, my son, and I ran outside with buckets and a wet/dry vac to try and bail/suck the water out of the window well. It was raining the whole time, and freezing cold, but we eventually got the majority of the water out of the well. Or at least we got it low enough that it was actually below my daughter's window.

After we got the water to stop coming in, we had to clean up the mess we had. Between the wet/dry vac and pulling up sections of the carpet, we did what we could to suck up the remaining water.

After we got our own affairs in order, we started calling around the neighborhood to check on everyone else. One of the people from our local church was organizing relief efforts for the worst cases, and my son trotted off to help with that. As a minor leader in my church, I continued calling the people I knew and felt responsible for. It was at that time I learned we were pretty lucky, all in all. Some of our neighbors in older homes had the sewer backing up into their basements. I was feeling pretty bad about mucking about with the rainwater. I can't imagine what it would have like to be ankle deep in raw sewage.

While I stayed home and held down the fort, watching my youngest children, my wife and two oldest kids went to volunteer and fill sandbags. My wife works as a crossing guard and the police department had called to encourage the crossing guards to come out. It turns out that the city was trying to divert the water flows down 700 south street, and the sandbags were being used there. The sandbags were also available to citizens that needed them, so my wife brought a few home. We had been told there was another storm on the way, and we didn't want to be caught with more water in the basement.

Now I have several fans going in my daughters' room, trying to dry things out. I'd take the carpet out to dry, but it was raining again when I left for work this morning, so that wouldn't have done much good. I'm afraid we're going to have to replace the pad at least, if not the carpet. We may need to replace parts of the sheetrock as well, we'll just have to see what the extent of the damage is.

The ironic part is that this isn't covered by my homeowner's insurance. They'll pay for water damage caused by a broken pipe, but not rain or ground water. In the meantime, my daughters get to have fun "camping out" in the living room. My wife and I, however, get to worry about trying to get everything fixed. I just keep reminding myself, "It could have been much worse."

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