Flooding (Continued)

by J.D. Roth

Oops. How embarrassing. All those rainfall numbers I cited on Monday? Those are for Astoria. Let’s redo the body of that entry but with the correct numbers for Portland, shall we?

Since January first, Portland has had 4.34 inches of rain, which is 1.70 inches above the norm of 2.64 inches. Over the same period last year, we received only 0.56 inches of rain. (And, remember, between February 15th and March 15th, we had no rain and record warmth.)

Over the past twenty-three days (since the cold spell ended on December 18th) we’ve had 10.77 inches of rain, which is 6.78 inches above the norm of 3.99 inches. During the same period last year, we received only 1.94 inches of rain.

All my babbling about this being a heavy water year is nonsense. We are above average, and have had a great deal of rainfall in the past three weeks, but our annual numbers are not as off-the-chart as I thought we were.

I apologize for the previous misinformation. It’s really quite embarrassing to have posted it.

Regardless of how much rain we’ve had, it’s still too much. Our poor house is being battered by the storm. The leak in the roof seems mostly contained, but I still suspect water is getting in somewhere. (I have no idea where, though — I went over that area of the roof in minute detail when I patched it at the end of December. I obviously missed something somewhere.

The roof worries me most in the long run. In the short run, the water in the basement is a significant headache. I may need to get in touch with the previous owner to get some tips on how to cope with it. (Of course, we could just move everything out of the basement, but that seems like an extreme measure.)

Last night we became well-acquainted with our sump pump.

When I got home, there entire basement was flooded, and the deeper spots had about an inch of water. I drained the area with the sump pump and went upstairs. When Kris got home an hour later, she went down to check things out. She came up angry. “Why haven’t you drained the basement?” she demanded.

“I did!” I said.

I went down to look. The water was even deeper than before. Throughout the evening, we took turns draining the basement every hour or so. We even set up shifts during the night. I drained the basement at 11:30, 2:30, and 5:30; Kris drained it at 1:00 and 4:00.

We have lots of questions, some of which have possible answers with severe negative consequences. For example:

Ought we just let the cellar fill with water? What would happen if we didn’t pump it? Obviously, we can’t be at the house 24 hours a day. How deep will the water get if we’re not there to pump it every ninety minutes? Is there a typical maximum depth the water reaches? Would it just rise to a certain level and stop? Or does it just keep rising indefinitely? Today before we left for work, we pulled up the sump pump and set it in a corner. (It’s not a submersible type, and the plunger thingie doesn’t work — it rises, but it does not fall.) What would happen if we just left the sump pump in the deepening water? If it became submerged, would it be dangerous to enter the water? Would it be dangerous to turn it on? Would it be dangerous to plug or unplug the pump if it were under water? Is there a way to treat the eventual mold growth? (I’ll bet there’s some liquid a person can spray that will kill molds. Am I right?) What can we do to prevent future flooding? (Or at least to minimize it.) We’ll re-evaluate the gutter system very soon, making sure everything is clear and functioning properly. We’ll also get tubing to drain all of the downspouts further away from the house. Aside from this, what else can we do? Dave has suggested digging some gravel-filled sump pits and trenches outside the house, and I think this is a keen (but daunting) idea. What’s the best method to do this? How many do I need? Where do I place them? How deep must they be? Would it help to run the well outside? (By which I mean: turn on the faucet attached to the well, activate the pump, and drain water through a hose to a spot near the road.)

These aren’t questions I’ve ever had to worry about before. They’re a little overwhelming. I’m sure we’ll be fine. This house has stood for over one hundred years, and for most of that time it did not have the sump pump. (It appears to have been set in place during the early eighties based on dates on the cord and the pump itself.)

Updated: 11 January 2006

Do what's right. Do your best. Accept the outcome.
Copyright © 1994 - 2022 by J.D. Roth