June 3, 2007

Friday night Mother Nature decided it was time to inundate us with massive amounts of water, and an actual flash flood! Normally when we have a forecast of ‘scattered thunderstorms’, we are in a pocket that can see the lightning in the distance, hear the thunder crashing, and if we’re lucky, we get teased with a few drops of rain, sometimes a downpour that only lasts maximum 10 minutes. Not this time!!

We had just finished watering all the baby plants and trees I planted last weekend, since we were sure there wouldn’t be enough water from the heavens to sufficiently soak the new roots. HA! Boy, were we wrong!! The sky got dark; we saw the usual lightning and counted the seconds before the thunder crashed to determine how far away the storm was – according to our calculations, it was several miles away. My hubby had just moved his car back by the chicken coop to distribute the new bag of chicken feed to our blue egg layers, when the heavens opened up, and the rain came down with such force that visibility was next to nothing. I saw lightning hit back that way, followed by the instant roar of thunder, and when I didn’t see him heading back towards the house, figured I’d better go check on him.

My umbrella did little to keep me dry, by the time I got out to the chicken coop, I was soaked! I laughed when I saw my DH sitting on the back bumper of his car, under the open hatch door. We joked about how it’ll only last about 10 minutes, then clear out and become really humid and muggy. He was determined to wait it out and give the chickens their food, so I went back to the Summer House (it used to be the Summer Kitchen when our house was first built in 1817 – now it’s our music and computer room) where our 4 year old was playing computer games. 10 minutes passed…then another…and another…we finally figured out this storm was here to stay.

My hubby finally made a mad dash to the Summer House and we decided it might be best if we head into the house, and wait to see what happens with the storm. We live across the street from our township’s volunteer fire company, the alarms started going off many times until they had every single one of their 3 or 4 fire trucks out on various calls.

We watched as cars pulled into the parking lot to wait out the torrential downpour, commented on the idiots who sped past on the water-logged roadway waiting for one of them to spin out uncontrollably during hydroplaning. The water on the road was clear rain water, but as we watched, it suddenly started getting deeper, and turned brown – in less than 5 minutes the roadway was completely submerged, and we could no longer see our front lawn, our driveway was turned into a small river. We decided we had better check the basement, as we have had water issues down there in the past, and couldn’t believe how fast the water was pouring in from any nook and cranny it could find.

I made a mental note that the case of wine my brother had kindly sent from Seattle the day before was out of harms way in the basement, sitting on top of a cooler, and then decided to look out the back door and see what the water situation was. We couldn’t believe what we saw, our brick patio between the house and the Summer House was completely submerged in rushing water, and the entire back yard looked like one wide river. Princess Nagger lamented when she saw her big yellow ball sailing away on the rapids of the sudden river, but there was nothing we could do. I decided to check on the basement again, and when I looked down the steps, the water was already at the first step at the bottom (about a foot deep).

I also noticed that the cooler the case of wine had been sitting on was now floating freely, minus the case of wine. I hurried down the steps and saw the box bobbing in the water, asked my hubby to hand me the broom and successfully fished the box from the rushing water in the basement, taking care not to step in it in case there was any electricity in the water (as warned by my Electronics Engineering hubby!). I made a mental note of some of my antique wine and jelly making items on the top shelves of the basement, confident they would not be affected by the rising water as we had never had water get any deeper than 3 feet from a previous flood – we purchased a new sump pump after that, and never had any flooding in the basement after that, until now.

As I was rescuing the precious case of wine, Princess Nagger saw the rushing water and started to get scared – her little voice piped up behind me “But I can’t breathe under water!!!” Poor thing! We tried to reassure her that she didn’t have anything to worry about; the water wasn’t going to flood the house, just the basement. We resumed our lookout point at the front window and noticed that now the road out front was blocked from any more traffic (about time!). We saw a fire company from another township go by towing an inflatable boat – we found out later that there was indeed a water rescue somewhere down the road. The water kept rushing, we called our next door neighbor who had been living there for 18+ years, and even they have never seen anything like this in all the time they’ve been here.

The rushing water lasted between ½ hour to an hour…we were relieved when the rain finally lessened, and were ecstatic when we could finally see our lawn again. The backyard was still flooded, but the river had subsided. My hubby took a walk over to the fire company to find out more details, and was told that a creek down the road had flooded, but we also determined that the cause of the flash flood was most likely from the recent clear cutting of trees for a large housing development going in further down the road on the other side – the water was flowing from that direction, towards the creek, not from the creek.

We checked the basement again, and were shocked to see that the water level had reached 5 feet!! Yes, that is correct, 5 FEET. Such a bummer to see that all the ‘top shelf’ items had floated away to various parts of the basement, everything in the basement was floating and swirling around. Since the rain had finally stopped and the danger of more water coming in had abated, we decided to call it a night and not depress ourselves any more and find out the actual damages in the morning.

I woke up early on Saturday, the water in the backyard was completely gone, but there was still about a foot of water and mud in the basement, our poor sump pump was working overtime trying to eliminate the rest. I took a walk to the back of our property to check on my greenhouse, stopping to check on my baby trees and plants along the way. Everything seemed no worse for the wear (thank goodness!) I certainly didn’t have to do my usual morning watering! (grin!) Aside from the water and muck and major mess in the basement, and seeing the blades of grass flattened from the rush of water, the yard looked typical after a major rain. I spied my daughters yellow ball in the corn field behind our property, so I walked out and rescued it so she would be happy it wasn’t lost for good.

My poor hubby spent the day yesterday adding another old pond pump and a length of hose to speed up the process of pumping the rest of the water out of the basement, and discovered that the ‘new’ sump pump we had purchased a couple of years ago was not functioning properly as it had gotten jammed up with small rocks from the fast rushing water. He had to make a run to Sears to get another one so we won’t have to worry about more flooding in the basement with more rain in the forecast for the next several days. I was able to rescue some of my important wine and jelly making items, it was a major job cleaning all the mud off of them, but got it done.

The rest of the stuff in the basement is still all helter skelter, we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to get it all cleaned out and organized again. Since the basement isn’t a full basement (it’s a hand-dug stone basement that was primarily a root cellar in 1817, only about 6-7 feet in height, even I have to duck to walk around down there because of the heating ducts) we figure we’ll pull everything out, salvage what we can, burn what we can and discard the rest, then my hubby said he’ll power wash the entire basement, let it dry out and then we can store miscellaneous stuff in there again. But boy, what a job it will be!

And Mother Nature isn’t being cooperative; we’re due for more rain this afternoon/evening – those that are they are predicting at least 2 more inches of rain…but thankfully it won’t even be close to the 5-6 inches we got in a short few hours Friday night! And we can be very thankful it wasn’t any worse – there were other people in other areas who are now homeless, as they had walls collapse in their basement, and several houses were ‘condemned’ because of flood damage. We can certainly consider ourselves lucky!!

So now we wait for the water heater guys to call us, since we can’t figure out how to restart the pilot light on our new water heater, and we’ll check later in the summer after things are really dried out to make sure the flood didn’t take out our furnace – it was completely submerged. Luckily we won’t need to use our furnace for quite awhile! Oh, and there’s the pond – our goldfish pond is full to capacity, but the muddy water makes it look like the pond is full of a nice latte! Hopefully the goldfish didn’t get swept away during the flash flood, I’m tempted to use the fish net just to check to see if they’re still in there, but figure I’ll leave them alone, they’re probably stressed enough as it is!! LOL!