Location: Oregon, United States

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sandbags, Siphons, (Buckets) and Sump Pumps

In case you haven't been following our weather here in Oregon, we have just been hit with hurricane force winds and accompanying rainfall. The governor has issued a state of emergency, but Thomas still went to school today (the other two had the day off because it was the end of the semester). We only lost power for about an hour last night - not bad, really. But today has been an "adventure". Paul is in Minnesota. Hmm, what's wrong with this picture???

7:15: Wake up to the alarm on my cell phone - good thing I had the foresight to set that in addition to my clock. Any kind of storm around here means we will lose power, so I'm beginning to get the hang of it. Check the internet to see if school is in session for Thomas. Indeed it is. Poor guy.

7:30: Go to wake up Thomas. He immediately starts crying and arguing with me about the accuracy of my assessment. I don't feel so sorry for him any more and start ordering him around. Get up and get dressed, Thomas. (My pants are still damp in the dryer) Turn the dryer on until you have to go. Eat your breakfast. Stop talking about it! I don't want to hear any more about it, the power is on, the roads are clear, now go to school. Goodbye. I love you.

9:30: Look outside our family room sliding glass door and notice that water is beginning to accumulate on the patio. Crap. I was hoping this wouldn't happen. Decide sandbags will be a great option.

9:35: Go to Home Depot and get sandbags. They only have four left, so I buy them. Two of them have holes. I leave them and go to Lowe's, which is next door - Handy! Buy two more sandbags. Go home. Put on Stephen's winter boots which I think are waterproof. Haul sandbags out of car and around back. Discover the boots are not waterproof. Also discover that the sandbags are freaking heavy - 60 pounds each. Ugh! Suck up and keep hauling. Try to form a barrier in front of the sliding glass doors and then try to sop up the water between the bags and the door. Well, duh. That is not going to work. Give up, put on dry shoes and go back to Home Depot for my refund.

11:00: Call my folks to tell them how we are doing. Find I need to process this situation, so it is good to talk it through. I tell my dad about the sandbags, feeling very cool that I figured this out on my own. Then I tell him the water is up to three inches on the patio. He totally freaks out. "THREE INCHES?!!! YOU'VE GOT TO GET THAT OUT OF THERE!!!" "Where am I supposed to put it? There's nowhere for it to go!" "I DON'T KNOW! MAYBE THE STREET? JUST GET IT OUT OF THERE! DO YOU HAVE A HOSE?" "Yes, I have a hose, but I don't know if the street is lower than the patio." (Notice the mind-meld here - I knew he was talking about a siphon.) "YOU HAVE TO FILL IT UP FIRST..." "Don't worry about it, I know how to do a siphon. Okay - I'll see if I can get one going." "Do you want to talk to your mother?" "Yes, but only for a minute, I should get the siphon going..."

11:??: Order William to come outside with me to get the siphon going. He has no idea what I am up to and no idea how a siphon works. I only know I need two people to get the thing going. I figure I will use the spray nozzle on one end to plug it until I'm ready to let it go, fill it with water from the tap, unscrew the hose, plug it, run it to the developing pond, have William open it at the street end, and let 'er rip. In theory, this is a great idea. But when I unscrew the hose from the tap, the water spews everywhere, telling me clearly that the water wants to come out this end, not the end in the street. I try running it to the pond anyway. I go to the street and try sucking the water through, knowing that this is not potable aqua in any sense of the word, but figuring it is better than gasoline. My lips feel like they are going to get sucked into the hose and I realize I can't do it because I have run the hose up and over a little berm.

Re-route the line and try again. Meanwhile William is watching me and asking for the 10th time if he can go inside. I tell him flatly, "NO." But he has no clue what I am doing. I ask him to come to the pond and he meanders over. Aaaagh! I take a moment and explain my expectations: When I say come over, I mean RIGHT NOW. Run if you have to. When I say open the sprayer, hold it down to the ground and open it. The hose has to be lower at this end for it to work. You got that? He says he gets it. We try a couple more times and the water continues to spray out the end that is supposed to go in the pond. But I think if I can just plug it long enough to get it INTO the water, then have William open it up, it will work. I tell William the plan, run the water, kink the hose, unplug it, run it to the pond, yell for William to open up his end, weigh down my end, run to him and find him holding the hose waist high, with the end dangling at his feet, barely trickling. Aaaaagh again! I grab the hose, throw it on the ground and say, "THIS is holding it down!!!", then remove the nozzle. It starts to run, then to my surprise, continues running. It works!

Every half hour after that: Go outside and make sure the siphon is still working, not plugged, etc. It sure doesn't flow very fast. Look online (thank God we still have power) and determine that, according to the math, the rate of flow is related to the difference in elevation between point A and point B. Can't do anything about the flow. Watch the water continue to rise despite all my scientific prowess.

3:30: Check the sliding glass door again. This time there we have a breach and water is starting to come in. Tell William and Stephen to put on clothes they can get wet and meet me outside. I grab as many buckets as I can and start filling them. Distinct memories of bailing out the boat while fishing in the rain with my dad fill my head. The boys come outside and look at me like they are sure I am crazy. I tell them what to do: grab a bucket, fill it up, carry it over there and dump it in the street. They decide they only have to carry it to the other side of the berm and we quickly develop a muddy strip. Ugh. I try again: You need to carry it all the way to the street. And now you need to go around the muddy part. They fuss, but I tell them to suck up and just do it. We get into a rhythm and then Thomas comes home. He starts to argue with me about my methodology, thinks the hose is putting water INTO the pond, and feels that we should be spending our time making signs for passersby to see that say: FLOODING HOUSE! HELP WANTED!! I tell him to shut his mouth and get his butt in gear. But now our rhythm is off and we need more buckets, so I let him go to a neighbor and get some. He wants to beg them to help, too, but I figure this is a character building experience, especially since there is so much fussing going on, so I won't let him.

We use the new buckets and require Thomas to play the "quiet game". After a few more trips to the street, the neighbor across the street comes home and sees the activity. He comes to check on us and we discuss the options. I am thankful for another brain to think this through with me. A sump pump would be a really good thing right about now, but neither of us know anyone that has one. He offers to help, but we are making headway on the level of water and I am sure we will be done shortly. He thinks maybe he will bring over another hose and see if we can set up another siphon. In a little bit, he comes over with two more buckets and starts to work with us instead. The kids think I am a traitor because I wouldn't let them get help, but I got help. I explain that he volunteered. I seriously don't know how long it took, but we got the water away from the door, verified that it was no longer seeping into the house, released the kids from their burden, emptied a few more buckets full just for good measure, talked about possible permanent solutions - a sump pump? A drain? Jack up the patio a few inches? and had a nice cold beer. Then a few more neighbors got home and we all stood in the rain with my feet squishing in Stephen's boots, and talked about the adventure. One neighbor has a sump pump at work and said he'd bring it by tomorrow. General consensus is that we should have a big party next summer where we dig a trench and lay in 3" PVC piping and a drain box and they kind-of lost me right about there because I got stuck wondering how we were going to get the water to flow into the street and not back into the patio area. But they are all convinced that this is a really great idea and if I provide the beer, we can do this thing and it will work!

7:01: Finish blogging and determine that it is time for another ibuprofen. Can't decide if I want to check the water level on the patio or not... Oh, yeah! What's wrong with this picture? Nothing! Because when Paul is gone, that is when the crap hits the fan! So stuff like this should just be expected. Gosh, I can't wait 'til the next time he leaves.

8:15: Decide to check the level on the patio. It is rising again. Sadly, put on boots and gear and go out to scoop again, this time alone as the kids are all working on homework. They periodically stand and watch me silently through the patio door. It starts to rain again, and I am quickly soaked to the core. Fortunately, it isn't cold. Thomas comes out voluntarily after he is done with his homework. I am grateful, but by this time I am beginning to think we are not going to win the battle. I have him check the siphon. I decide that I am not getting up in the middle of the night to bail out the patio, so that means I will need dry towels if it starts to leak in again. Send Thomas to gather all the wet towels and put them on the spin cycle. He comes to the patio door and tells me there is no spin cycle. I know my washing machine, and there is a spin cycle. I instruct him where to find it and go empty another two buckets. I come back and he says, "Did you mean the washer or the dryer?" The washer, Thomas. "There is no spin cycle." "Thomas, there is a spin cycle. Go read all the settings on the knob and if you can't figure out which one is the spin cycle, memorize them and come back to me." I empty more buckets. At some point, William comes out and I instruct him to fill buckets. Thomas is standing at the window again. He tells me the settings. He has missed the entire right side of the knob. I tell him to look again. He says, are you sure you mean the washer? Yes, I'm sure. I empty more buckets. He is at the door again. "Um, Mom? Do you want rinse and spin or drain and spin?" he says with a shy grin that reminds me of my father when he is caught. "Drain and spin. Thank you, Thomas" By this time, I realize it truly is a losing battle and it is time to call it quits, and maybe go buy a sump pump at Home Depot or Lowe's. We empty our buckets and go inside. Thomas announces he is so proud of everyone's hard work, he will make us all hot cocoa. What a team! It is 9:00. I call Lowe's. They are closed. The door is not leaking. I think we'll make it through the night.


Blogger Rosie said...

Ahhh! You've reminded me that the snow we're getting can be shoveled easier than your rain!
I'll try to remember that when the next snow storm comes!

P.S. Someday let me tell you about the "500 year flood" we had here a few years ago! I'm familiar with sandbags! And they are also heavy when the flooding ends and you have to empty them!
Love ya!

7:28 AM  
Blogger Mme Powell said...

Yikes! I'm with Rosie. I'll take a few inches of snow over a hurricane any day. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us. K

9:00 AM  

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