• Getting Flooded Out of Your Home Home Isn’t the Worst That Can Happen

    by Debra DeAngelo

    In last week’s episode, we left our heroine standing ankle-deep in water, and feeling thankful for a burrito, beer and a bed. This week, we discover that she’s become a semi-permanent guest at the Abbey House Inn, her home in various states of demolition. Meanwhile, two little old fur-covered ladies are living in a chicken coop in her back yard. And if you don’t know what that means, you didn’t read my column last week. Shame on you.

    Here’s what our heroine needs to tell you this week: Go out right now and purchase Flood Safe supply lines for your toilets, dishwasher and washing machine. They cost less than $10 apiece, and their potential value is, roughly, the value of the entire interior of your home.

    A Flood Safe supply line has an arrestor in it that detects a sudden burst of running water and shuts the line down. Oh, how I wish I had one on all my supply lines. But no, the developer who built my house, and all the others like it in my neighborhood, fitted the toilets with cheap Chinese crap plastic fittings, and the back of the one on my toilet blew right off and then sprayed water full blast all day while I was at work. How much did saving a buck or two on plastic fittings end up costing? Oh, about $60,000, when all’s said and done.

    The damage is covered by insurance, thankfully, but in the meantime, everything we own is scattered hither and yon. Furniture. Books. CDs and DVDs. Family photos. Clothing. Dishes. Towels. That stuff can all be replaced. But my son’s handprint in clay from kindergarten and the paper angel my daughter made for me in preschool – these things may have a dollar value of zero, but they’re priceless to me. Those are the things I really want back.

    All I know is that our stuff is in a warehouse somewhere in West Sacramento, locked up and safe, they tell me, but I can’t help but wonder if the person who packed the pink ceramic kitty pennybank that I won at a picnic Bingo game in 1968 was extra careful while packing it, or if it’s in shatters, its guts of 1968 pennies spilled out in some random cardboard box.

    I’ll find out soon enough – about two month’s time, but that’s in contractor’s months. It’ll probably take twice that long in real people months. It’s already taken twice as long as they expected just to dry my house out. With about a dozen fans and dehumidifiers running ‘round the clock, and the temperature inside hovering around 100 degrees, it took nine days to dry the house out. Amazing how much water can spew from a one-inch pipe in about eight hours. I don’t know the exact volume, but it’s enough to saturate every floor and wall of a 1,340 square foot home.

    Although a cheap plastic fitting failed me, my insurance company held up like a champion. If you have AAA homeowner’s insurance, you can sleep easy tonight. I mean, assuming you’ve installed those Flood Safe doohickies. Once AAA commandeered this mess, what followed was an organized beehive of activity.

    The renovation team swarmed in, tearing into walls and ripping up flooring and baseboards, and setting up drying equipment. Next came the “pack out” squad, who emptied every drawer, closet and shelf, packing everything off along with all the furniture. In 48 hours, the house was empty, and about two feet of drywall cut away on several walls, the wind from the dryers whistling through the exposed 2×4 skeletons. All that’s left are the concrete floors, the fireplace and part of one back bathroom. It took me 11 years to get that house just the way I wanted it, and two days to completely demolish it. Wow. Just… wow.

    As the magnitude of all this settled in, I felt alternately overwhelmed, panicked, depressed, lost, exhausted and sometimes several or all of those things at once. Last week while driving back from Davis, news of the gas explosion in San Bruno was on the radio. They were interviewing a woman who lived there, and she told how she and her twin daughters were sitting on the bed talking when they heard the explosion. She looked out the window and saw the wall of fire coming at them. She grabbed her daughters, screamed “Run!” and they raced outside barefoot and down the street, literally running for their lives. Within moments, their house was incinerated, along with everything in it.

    She said people imagine what they’ll grab in a flood or fire – photos, knick-knacks, important papers — and she learned sometimes there’s no time for that. The only thing you can save is your own life. Through tears, she said she’d lost all of her deceased parents’ belongings, and it was like “losing them all over again.” Just listening to her, I realized that I was pretty lucky with my flooded house. Nobody died. Everything’s insured. And I still have all my stuff. I just don’t know where it is.

    I remind myself that when I’m feeling overwhelmed, panicked, depressed, lost, exhausted and sometimes several or all of those things. This morning, I went to feed my cats, and slowly walked through the bare and barren shell of what was once my home, and glanced in my bedroom closet. In the corner, I spotted the paper angel my daughter made, the same one I was referring to when I started this column yesterday. What are the chances?

    Maybe it fluttered down unnoticed from its perch on the high shelf when the packers were there, or maybe it tumbled from heaven itself. Either way, I took it as a sign. Everything’s going to be okay.

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