9 August 2014

Keep Calm and Carry On - A Handy Slogan

I live in a lovely city where people go to work, take their kids to soccer, and buy far too much at Costco on the weekend.  Nothing all that out of the ordinary happens.  Our community paper usually features a cute as anything toddler eating ice cream, picking strawberries or tobogganing after a snowfall.  But last Monday all hell broke lose...rain clouds held above our lovely city for over three hours and dropped a deluge of water, 125 - 200 cms in just a few hours.  The storm sewers couldn't keep up and Burlington experienced massive flooding.


This photo is from Google Images; not sure which street in Burlington.

Watching news stories on television and seeing cars stuck in waist-deep water, I've always wondered 'what were they thinking when they ventured into that?'.  Now I realize just how fast water and sewage can start backing up out of storm drains and drainage reservoirs.

Thankfully our home does not have a finished basement, as in carpeting and sofas; being a small family we've never needed the extra space to escape one another.  One thing most people do need though is a place to store those skates you use a couple of times a year (or never), extra kitchen chairs because they came with the table, and tote boxes full of every crayon scratching your children have ever created.  And the beer fridges and chest freezers.  Apparently, North Americans worry about running out of food...I digress.

Now, our basement has three areas that display a wet mark on the concrete should we have a prolonged rain.  On Monday, I checked the basement every half hour while my dear husband took a nap.  After ninety minutes or so there was a distinct drip, drip, drip sound coming from behind our electrical box.  The downspout at one corner of the house could not handle the flow which then caused it to stream over and pool down below.  Then the water seeped through the foundation wall and into the basement.

Grabbing dog towels, buckets, pots, and eventually flannel sheets, we sopped up the small puddles that formed and dumped the water outside on the driveway.  At one point my husband said 'stop shoving the water over here!'...but I wasn't shoving water anywhere and I told him just that.  'Well, where is it coming from then?'...when I stopped and had a good look I could see it coming from the hairline cracks in the floor that form due to settling.  Then the water started bubbling up through the bolt holes in the floor that anchor the load-bearing joists.  The drain to the sewer main was gurgling and we could see water mere inches from the grating.  This is when my husband's voice took on a slight falsetto tone.  This was the point that I just upped my pace with the mop and towels.

Grabbing our wellies and sloshing through roughly 5 cms of water we started dragging our stored belongings and the dusty exercise bike up onto our daughter's dance stage.  It was for hard shoe practice during her Lord of the Dance faze and thank goodness we had it!  That feeling of prioritizing in seconds what to save first while your adrenaline is pumping is actually quite exhilarating.  Well, perhaps that is a statement which is comfortably made after the fact.

After a crazy hour and a half, shall we say, we noticed we were making headway and the drain below the floor had stopped gurgling.  My husband and I stopped for a minute to take stock, cross our fingers that the worst was over and exhaled.  Then he said 'I'm surprised by how calm you were'.  I told him it was down to all of the WWII literature and blitz diaries I read.  As long as you are not hurt, the walls can crumble around you and what choice do people have but to just keep going?

At just after 9 pm, my husband and I ventured out to see how our neighbours had fared and to witness the fury of the stream breaching its bank.  The roar was deafening and if you had the misfortune of falling in you would stand absolutely no chance against the raging water.  Quite the juxtaposition from the gentle trickle we usually see.

We were extremely lucky.  People who live in the houses one block away had sewage seep into their homes and restoration vans dot the driveways along the street.  Someone in this family (photo below) managed to hold on to a smidge of humour because yesterday they had placed a child-sized stuffed ET doll right on top of their pile of damaged belongings.  You couldn't help but laugh when you saw it.  Looks as though someone has made off with it in the night though, go figure.


The only article we lost to the water was a flat-pack storage armoire that sipped water up its length and will only swell and go on to mildew.  This whole episode gave us the incentive to weed through and contemplate the stuff we held on to so there are several tote bins of odds and ends that I really don't feel all that sentimental about anymore.  Our new dehumidifier gives us a ridiculous amount of pleasure when we traipse downstairs to empty yet another full container of water pulled from the air.  Over two hundred pints by our estimation!

Lots of families in my community have a ton of work and a load of headaches to come in the days ahead.  I wish them well and count myself very lucky.


The stream across the street.  You can see just how high it rose - it cascaded over the bridge!


14 comments:

  1. I'm hoping all the WW2 reading I've done will enable me to cope with similar fortitude should I face a similar disaster -- *argh*! I hope you are drying out well.

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    1. Let's hope you never have to find out! And the basement is definitely on the mend, thanks so much, vicki!

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  2. My goodness, I do sympathise.

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    1. A life experience we could have done without, I must say. It certainly made us dream about a condo on a very high floor! Thanks for the support, Karen.

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  3. Oh gosh, glad you and your house are safe! The part of Surrey where I work got hit with very bad floods in February and we had lots of students who were living with aunts/uncles/grandparents/friends and were completely displaced. Hope things there go back to normal very soon!

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    1. Those floods were horrible, Kate, I remember the news stories...they were even written into The Archers! If there is a silver lining to natural disasters it's that people, family, and community tend to wrap up those around them and do everything they can to help. Bet your students learned quite a few lessons about the comforts of home while being displaced!

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  4. Oh, poor you and poor Burlington! (as I laugh shamefacedly at your digression about food storage...). I've never experienced a natural disaster with any degree of personal impact beyond inconvenience... I hope you and your lovely city are back to normal soon.

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    1. Stay in your gorgeous apartment that is lovely, safe, and dry...not to mention above street level! We are doing fabulously well with the help of our dehumidifier chugging away in the basement. Thanks so much for your kind words, Audrey!

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  5. Poor you. I am pleased it was merely inconvenience and not loss for you and hope you are getting back to normal.

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    1. We had a bit of a fright, Margaret, but hopefully that's all that Mother Nature has for us for quite some time. Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. That sounds awful. Thanks goodness you escaped anything worse. I love your comment about the novel reading! Hope this is the last you see of the floods.

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    1. Oh Harriet, I can't tell you how much I thought of those ladies going off to the market amidst the ruins...in dresses and heels, no less. If I have learned anything from those stories it's that crying...or freaking out...does absolutely nothing. Getting stuck in does. We have been so lucky. And yes, fingers crossed we never see the likes again!

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  7. Oh my gosh! So glad you're okay! And good to know all the WWII reading has paid off :) Hope everything is completely dried out now--such an amazing amount of water being collected by the dehumidifier. During our last big rain here G was saying how glad he is our flat is above ground level--but then I pointed out his car is in the underground car park! xx

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    1. Eek! Hopefully there is plenty of good drainage but I do recommend checking your insurance policy. It's heartbreaking to hear in the news how many people in Burlington were under-insured when it comes to water.

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