Monday, March 15, 2010

Herding Water

It started raining Friday morning. And it rained. And then it rained. And then it really rained.

In the wee early hours of Saturday morning the wind became frenzied. An endless whistle punctuated by roaring gusts. The kind of wind that either mutes all other sounds or distorts them into something ominous.

Is that the trees moving? Or is there an army of ninjas crawling on the roof?

Our backyard and the suburban crap sprawl beyond it inclines toward the house. Not the smartest groundbreaking move but it’s really fine as long as you have a french drain around the foundation.

We do not have a french drain.

We do however have a lovely lakeside view.

From the basement you feel as though you can reach out and touch the lovely lake.

Our basement flooded the first spring we lived here. That’s how we learned about french drains (and the lack of) and sump pumps.

The backyard lake sweeps toward the foundation into the well in the laundry room. The sump pump handles the flow and spits it back out.

Unless the ground is saturated to the consistency of cottage cheese. Unless it keeps raining and raining and raining.

Then the sump pump needs help.

After our inaugural flood we bought an industrial type pump and yards of hose and yards of extension cord.

My son pumps the lake before it gets to the well. The well is grateful and keeps the water from entering the laundry room.

It is a fine makeshift system that requires minimal manual assistance. Just position the pump correctly, lay down the hose and plug it in.

Then the power goes out. Then the dark creeps in. And the wind picks up.

My son bailed the water out of the well and into buckets. Then he heaved the buckets up and out the little window.

Armed with the biggest broom ever made I stood outside the little window. I pushed the giant puddles away from the house and toward the slight dip in the concrete that would send it out to the driveway.

Not since we put up the Christmas tree together has there been such camaraderie.

”You have to push faster! The water is coming in too fast for me to bail”

“I’m pushing as fast as I can!!”

“Don’t shout at me”

“I’m not shouting. The freaking wind is so loud I can’t hear myself think”

”Well you’re shouting”

There is a huge crashing sound and something flies by my head. A giant tree limb lands at my feet and does a dance before moving on.

”What are you doing out there?”

“I’m ducking”

“What? There are ducks out there?”

He continues to bail. I continue to sweep. We are just barely staying ahead of the water.

A clank. A sickening tearing sound. A huge bang.

The wind has lifted the latch of the pool ladder. The ladder crashes open to the ground.

I had been standing there a moment earlier. Thankfully I had taken a second to drape myself across the BBQ. My ankle was swelling and the muscles in my back were burning.

”What the hell was that?” says the voice from the basement.

“The ladder fell down”

”The ladder?”

“The pool ladder”

“Can you latch it up again?”

“Why!? In case some child wanders by in the dark during a freaking hurricane and decides to swim in a covered pool?”

Silence from the basement.

Even deafening wind can not drown out the sarcasm of my last nerve.

Three hours and then … let there be light.

The pump started up. I could hear Jeffrey thanking God and Jersey Central Power & Light.

I don’t know how to even begin to describe the conditions under which the utility people and the police and fire people have been working. Thank You!!

We lost the sweet little tree I’ve been mothering. I had hoped she was getting better but her roots were too weak and the ground was too wet and the wind was too strong. She showed her appreciation by just missing the pool, the shed, and my neighbor’s fence. She fell gracefully.

It’s still raining …


Linda said...

Oh my goodness. Mother Nature seems to be taking out an awful lot of her fury on New Jersey this year between the ridiculous amount of snow you got this winter and now this pounding wind and rain.

As always, though, you give your ordeals a twist of humor and even though I can feel your pain, I still manage to laugh as no one tells it quite like you do!

I'm sorry to hear about your tree, I'd be heartbroken as I tend to cry over things like trees that have been downed. I'm a sap like that. No tree pun intended!

Hope it dries up for you SOON!

Anonymous said...

I heard about the horrible weather you all had, wow! I'm glad it's on the way out. I always wish we had a basement but after reading your post I'm sort of glad we don't!

Akelamalu said...

Oh crikey! Sorry about your tree. :(

Micky-T said...

Holy Crap!! Bailing your house to keep it from filling up.

That story reminds me of a near sinking of my old boat Caprifol.

Sylvia K said...

What a mess! Sorry about the tree, glad none of you were seriously hurt!! I should be ashamed for all my whining about our gray world in Seattle as it has been the mildest winter on record and spring has come early so in spite of the gray skies and some "gentle" rain, we do have beautiful trees and flowers a good six weeks earlier than usual! Holding good thoughts for all of you, Dianne! Hope your week gets better -- and quickly!!


Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

Holy Turds! Thank goodness no one was injured! It rained cats and dogs all weekend at my place too! I now have a new pond in my back yard!

Cherie said...

Thank goodness that no one was injured at your house and that the tree fell the way it did.It sounds as though you've earned a break.

bobbie said...

And I thought I had problems!

Martha Z said...

I enjoy exciting weather but this would be too much excitement for me! I hope you do not have too many lingering after effects. Being out in the cold and wet is not good for anyones health. I will hope for some nice, warm spring weather for you.

Anonymous said...

Oh bugger! Not a pleasant experience, but thankfully you are all safe and dry, except alas for poor tree! Any chance it could be replanted and secured?

Dianne said...

linda - I'm a sap too, I cried and I said good-bye to her and told her that I loved her

3men/lady - having the basement is wonderful - the laundry room and my office and more storage - we didn't know anything when we bought the house and our inspector was a dick
if only we had known about french drains

akelamalu - crikey is right!! I'm going to miss that tree

micky - at one point Jeffrey was screaming "the house is sinking!, the house is sinking" ;)

sylvia - thanks!! and you never whine, you observe :)

noe noe - Sunday morning I looked at all the stuff that flew past my head the night before and couldn't believe it!!
I was very lucky

cherie - that tree was a good sport til the end :)

bobbie - it's all relative, you had the snow storm to end all snow storms

martha - my son's back and arms are aching and I'm walking like the hunchback and elephant man combined, Oy!!

rob - the tree is too far gone
I am going to plant a new baby tree
thanks sweetie

Frank Baron said...

Yikes! Some adventures we can do without eh?

Sorry about your tree. That's a shame. But all things considered, I suppose things could have been worse.

(Worse, as in, it might have happened to me.) ;)

Sparkling Red said...

Ai ai ai! That's a lot of water. You could've launched a rowboat in that lake. Sheesh!

Linda Reeder said...

After reading that, and enjoying not you misery but your wit and humor, I feel I need to apologize for el Nino giving you all of our storms.
We'll be basking in sun again today, with spring in full bloom.
I'm sorry for your rain and snow and floods and lost tree.
And I'm so glad you are safe. Those were near misses - too near.

CG said...

What a nightmare - sounds terrifying!! I am sorry for your little tree. Hope things improve x

Kay Dennison said...

Arrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhh!!!!! Hope relief is on the way!!!!

And remember: gallows humor is better than no humor at all. It's a lesson I learned long ago -- the hard way, of course.

Ron said...

Holy enchilada!!!!

My heart was literally pounding just from reading this!

What is it about all the fierce weather conditions we're having lately? So many people I know lost power this past weekend.

I am soooo glad you were able to prevent flooding in the basement. This post reminds me of how when I was a kid, our basement flooded every single time there was a heavy rain. My mom and I would go down there with rubber boots and buckets and just scooped until we pooped!

So sorry to hear about the tree, dear lady. Gosh, I know how you feel.

X to you and the gang!

Daryl said...

I am sorry but I did laugh at the ducks ... I am so thankful you had to lean on the BBQ .. I am so sorry that tree didnt make it but I am so glad it didnt cause any more damage on its way down.


Dianne said...

frank - I truly believe the tree fell carefully just for me, I went out again to say bye to her

sparkling - ai ai ai! and sheesh! says it all :)

linda r - a few times in those 3 hours I really got scared, the sound of the wind was immense and everything seemed pointed at my head - oy!

cg - the rest of the week is supposed to be warm and sunny, that should dry out the yard and stop the endless pumping
thanks :)

kay - I'd be dead or crazy (crazier) without gallows humor!

ron - I can picture you and your Mom and it makes me want to hug you :)

daryl - that was a close call! the next morning Jeff said that he suddenly realized the ladder could have killed me. I assured him it wouldn't have, it would have just maimed me hideously
the entire duck thing went on and on
me screaming about "what do you mean are there fucking ducks" and Jeff saying I should stop cursing and me screaming "no one can fucking hear me"
I swear he was laughing thru half of it and using me to entertain himself

Jay said...

Close call! Glad you weren't hurt.

Mother Nature doesn't like it when people put up fights against her. ;-)

Sleepypete said...

Crikey ! I was thinking on my drive back last night that I was going to need a new category for driving weather to go alongside "mucky", "damp", "nasty" and "dangerous".

I picked Vicious because of all the aquaplaning I was doing in a car that I'd forgotten to fit the water wings to.

I think you must have gone right past Vicious and into Demonic ...

ds said...

Love the "duck" business. Very sorry about the tree. Very very glad you were leaning over the BBQ when the ladder fell.

Here's wishing you a break from lakes!

Travis said...

Yikes! That's some scary stuff. Y'all be careful.

fermicat said...

I hate to hear that you are having such problems. I've had to deal with water issues in a previous home and don't envy what you are going through. Hang in there!

gabrielle said...

Hell of a way to promote family time! Sorry about the sweet little tree. And I hope you get some relief from the rain.

Jeff B said...

Good Grief!!!

That's quite a system for evacuating the water. Sure glad the power came back on to let the pump do all the hard work for you. Also glad you're OK.

Smalltown RN said...

WE have had so much rain as well...puddles everywhere....the ground is a soggy mess. There were 70kmh winds on the weekend...I am always fearful of a big tree falling on our house....I was glad the roofers finished the roof last week!

I hope things settle down for you soon...and that your ankle is healing well...

Scott Oglesby said...

When you were talking about ninjas in the trees, I was afraid you started smoking meth amphetamine.

I’m so sorry Dianne. That’s kind of like what we went through during Christmas…you know, when we were supposed to be in Paris…. Leaking roofs and flooding basements (or houses) suck! We didn’t have power for a week or clean water for two, so you’re lucky in that regard at least.

Robin said...

Oy vey...

You guys are having quite the monsoon over there this week, yikes. I hope it clears soon and the power stays on!

the walking man said...

Time to regrade the back yard and install that french drain. Course though ya will piss your neighbors off seeing as their yard probably drains into your right now.

Arkansas Patti said...

Wow, water front property??? Not cool. Was impressed though that you were only out of power 3 hours. It would have been days here.
French drain would leap to the top of my want list.
She was such a lovely tree. So sorry for your loss.

Matt-Man said...

You all got quite the storm. I say that so that you can let your frustration out by replying:

"No Shit, dumbass."

I'm such a giver. Cheers Di!!

Trisha said...

Gracious! That doesn't sound like a nice way to bond as a family. Hopefully the power will stay on and the rain will stop!

Sorry about the lovely little tree.

Mountain Photog said...

Man, when it rains it pours. Literally. What an ordeal! Thank goodness for the small favor of the tree falling in the proper spot, poor thing.

Sorry to hear about Isadora. Yup, when it rains, it pours. Sigh. . .

Here's hoping brighter days are ahead, Dianne. Weather-wise and otherwise.

Take care!

Bond said...

In the end, I am thrilled you are safe and the house did not wash away...

Stay dry, if that is possible..

and thank goodness the temps were not below freezing, you know 12" of snow for every inch of rain

Jackie said...

Oh Lordy, I'm glad you're OK, and can smile through it all. Hope the weather gives you some respite now.

Jim said...

Dianne, I thought of you this morning while I was watching the CBS news. Our local news carried it too, all about the Northern New Jersey rains. Guess that is you.

It surely did make a mess out of things. I am very glad you could keep the water out of your basement. Good think you got power back, a lot didn't.

Now if it will just stop. They said a lot of trees were down because of the wet soil not being able to hold trees upright. Guess that and the wind did yours in. I am sorry.

We have French drains to take MOST of the roof water from the front out to the lower level back yard. It runs off onto the golf course.
Houston average annual rainfall is 50 inches per year so we need that.
[The average low temperature is (summer) 72, (winter) 40 degrees F.
The average high temperature is (summer) 93, (winter) 61 degrees F.] (

Thank you for mentioning me Saturday. I didn't do the 6WS as I am fairly well bogged down. I didn't do the Ruby Red either.
I will do a short 'Happy St. Patrick's Day' post tomorrow. Shouldn't be a lot of readers to answer. I am not hibernating, I am doing work and playing golf and seeing grandkids.
I might to the Friday meme again, you would like that one.

jennifer said...

She did fall gracefully.

Hasn't this been the weirdest weather? Blizzards and floods. Jeez Louise.

Glad you managed the water.

Jacob said...

You are a very good writer. This is a horror story of epic proportions and worthy of Mr. S. King.

I'm glad to know that you survived, the house survived and other principals of importance survived.

Trees can be replaced much easier than humans.

Perhaps you could write this up for one of the "horror" magazines, make a bunch of money and put in a French drain?

Why do they call it a French drain?

If the rain continues, you may need to consider building an ark. Take only your own animals, though.

Best wishes, Di!

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh ... this seems harrowing! I'm hoping the rains have finally stopped and that the damage isn't terribly severe. Amazing account of this wet experience.
Hugs and blessings,

Mare said...

You tell a great story! Thank God you didn't get hurt. Water, water, everywhere...Hang in there!

Shelly said...

All I can think is "her back her back her ankle her ankle!!!" are you today? I sure hope all that didn't wreck you...yiikes.
Oh...and sorry bout the poor little tree.

Mrs. C said...

:( I wish I knew what to say times like these. I hope everything is going ok today...

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Good God, Dianne...What a nightmare!! It's like you need an Ark! I hope it has stopped raining now, my dear....These things take it out of you, don't they??
Loved your conversation with!

Nick said...

That's an adventure (but I'm glad I didn't have it!)

Please get that drainage problem fixed in a way that doesn't require pumps. I'm trying to fix simaliar problems myself. Been using this online guide to landscape drainage to sort out possible solutions.

Good luck! (and kudos on the good writing...)

Hilary said...

Oh geesh.. I'm so glad the ladder and tree each missed you and that damage wasn't worse than it was. I hate the thought of losing that tree, but I'm much happier to hear that you and yours are safe.