Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Great Flood Of ‘09

Okay, so it’s been one sloppy week here in jooksville. Last Wednesday it warmed up to around 40 degrees, and then it rained all day.

When the day started, we had about 3 or 4 inches of leftover snow patchworked around the yard, plus the rock hard, scummy remains of a few plow banks out front. When it was over, it was all gone, and we had standing water on the lawn, and in the basement.

We’d been having snow storms followed by meltdowns the last couple of weeks, and the ground was totally saturated. My sump pumps were running 24-7, but they were keeping up. Last Wednesday put them to the ultimate test, and one of them failed.

I got home late that night. I’ve been so busy lately that the rain, and its consequences, had never even entered my thoughts. It took about 20 minutes before I noticed I wasn’t hearing that old familiar water hammer that the pumps make when they’re going full out, so I headed downstairs to check things out, and that’s when the poop hit the fan…

My entire basement (laundry room, burner room, home office and Mantown) was flooded. The water wasn’t deep, only about an inch or two, but it was everywhere. I stood there on the stairs for a few minutes, transfixed by the reflection of the light on the water, and then I blew. I took a Donald Duck, and I’m really glad no one was there to see it.

Once I was moving again, I fumed and sputtered my way through the basement to the pumps, and I found that one of them had stopped working. The float was stuck in the up position due to the water level, so I quickly plunged my hand into the sump and pushed the float down. When I released it, pumping commenced. I wiped the slime off of my hand on my jeans, and then swore my way out the back door. I got the submersible pump and the wet and dry vac out of the shed, and got very busy, and very wet.

By the time my wife got home I had started to calm down, and was beginning to make headway on the standing water, but getting rid of the water is the easy part after a flood. As she quickly pointed out, we needed to move the furniture and rip out the carpeting in the finished areas, and lug everything out that was on the floor in the unfinished areas, before we could really start cleaning up.

Dejected, I shut down the vac, and had another small fit. I had been so focused on my task that I hadn’t really let the whole breadth of the situation into my angry and crowded mind.

And that’s when she said the magic words: “Have you called MetLife yet?”

I hadn’t, and I should know better by now. I trudged upstairs and did a quick wash of my hands while she dug out the policy info and got the phone. A few minutes later I was talking to an agent, who was both calming and knowledgeable. She assured me that I was covered, and that she was dispatching an emergency cleanup crew that would be here within the hour. A dispatcher from Service Master called me about 10 minutes later and said that a truck was on its way. Thank God.

It was late when I called, and even later when the crew arrived, but they were incredible. They shot pictures of the whole mess, told me that they had a lot of work to do and would be here for a while, then gently shooed me away, even taking the full to the brim shop vac off of my hands.

They dragged vacuum hoses in from their truck, moved the furniture, cut out the carpeting, lugged everything wet outside, then wiped down the legs of the furniture and set it up on blocks. Luckily none of the material had gotten wet, as we bought our basement furniture with damp floors in mind.

Next they sprayed all the surfaces with disinfectant, and then brought in blowers and dehumidifiers. They also loaded all the trash into their truck. By the time they were done and I closed up shop it was almost 3am, but what they accomplished in five hours would have taken my wife and I five days to do.

Since then, they’ve come back every day to take moisture readings, disinfect, and move the blowers and dehumidifiers around. Hopefully when they come tomorrow, they’ll be able to remove the equipment and do a final cleanup.

So, we’re on the road to recovery, and life is slowly returning to normal. We didn’t lose much in the way of material goods, because we don’t leave things on the floor in the basement unless they’re in a plastic container or up on legs, so that’s a plus. And although we’re still kind of in shock over this whole thing, my wife is already planning the rebuild. Like the Phoenix, Mantown will rise again from the ashes, or to be more precise, from the puddles.

Anyway, the moral of this story is; don’t skimp when it comes to insurance coverage.

In these tough economic times it’s tempting to cut out the little extras on your home and auto policies to try and bring the cost down, but you shouldn’t. Coverage for floods due to sewer backup or sump pump failure is one of those little extras, and if I hadn’t had it, I would have been up the creek, so to speak. It’s critical to clean up quickly and thoroughly after a flood to prevent mold growth, and most of us don’t have the time or equipment to do it right.

I also want to emphasize again how great both MetLife and Service Master have been. This isn’t the first time they’ve both helped us through an emergency, so I know their quick and courteous response wasn’t just a lucky break for us. It’s what they do, and they do it well.

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