Flash Flood 2012: Landscaping prevents potential disasters

Flash Flood preparation – why its vital and how to prepare for it.

Hey Dad !!! Wake up we have water in the house !

It was 2012, it was early, about 6:30 am on a weekend.  I step on the bedroom tile and there isn’t any water. I quickly put jeans on, shoes with no socks and a shirt. I step into the office and there is 2-3 inches of water heading towards the sump pump. My Daughter frantically starts picking up everything that has the potential to get wet.

This all happens within minutes. I stop, pause and realize we are without power. Its nearly dead quiet in the house.  I stand at the bottom of the stairs and realize the rug in the office area is completely underwater. I help pick up what I could, and dash up the stairs and out the door and into cough drop size hail. OUCH !!! I open the truck, hit the garage door opener and….wait. no power.

Right after several minutes of hail, the rain is coming down so hard that its difficult to see the truck in the driveay, let alone across the street.
Right after several minutes of hail, the rain is coming down so hard that its difficult to see the truck in the driveway, let alone across the street. Notice the water level at the back tires. I am on a sloped driveway.

I go to the back door of the garage and get it open, I grab the manual door cable and yank the Garage door open.  I look down the street and think I can see fire, police and other vehicles. I don’t waste much time. I roll out the generator near the opening of the back door , enable the fuel line and start running electrical cables into the house, mindful to keep them out of the water in the finished basement.

I beat on my son’s door and yell, GET UP ! If you don’t move your car NOW, you won’t have one. We’re having a flash flood soon ! This isn’t over ! He throws on some pants, then opts for shoes. I tell him unless he wants the shoes soaked, he best go barefoot. He comes outside and is speechless. as water is half way up his tires and rising quickly.   He backs the car on to the grass to the far side of my truck. It continues to pour harder than I have ever seen. Even in squalls out to sea, this storm must have dumped five or more inches of rain in 30 minutes or less.

My son is now up, groggy but walks out to the garage and after a dozen pulls the generator is online. I run down the stairs, and unplug the sump pump from the wall, and plug it into the live line coming from the generator. The sump pump starts draining the water, but its a slow painful process. I think the sump pump drain that sits on the floor in the corner of the room is clogged.

I go back out to the garage and grab the Shopvac vacuum cleaner and put that at the bottom of the stairs, after some quick thinking, the Shopvac ends up at the top of the landing and we are moving water outside the house quicker.

The view of the basement, with two inches of water from the flash flood. At least I know what it takes to flood the basement !
The view of the basement, with less than two inches of water from the flash flood. At least I know what it takes to flood the basement !

With 90% of the water gone, about 45 minutes to an hour after it all started, I am spent. I look at whats left on the wet rug and tell the kids to pick up everything of value and bring it to the garage.

A few other family members show up and ask if they can assist. I ask them to turn the fans on high throughout the house under generator power and find the sharpest knives in the house. Since the rug in the office is completely saturated, I decide to rip it all up in small manageable sizes. Under the rug is 1970 style tiled floor. That was a relief. I quickly told myself that tile would be the way to go in this finished basement for now on. The finished basement is about 1000 sq feet, and one half is already tiled.  We managed to get all the rug up and to the street. Its pouring so hard, that if you stood still for 15 seconds,  you were totally soaked. I run inside and grab my camera and quickly shoot photos of the front of the house area and the back. The streets are now a swift moving current with no course set other than the way of least resistance.

An old man comes out of his house to the left of mine.  He peers down the street, puts his cane to the air and shouts, “In my 35 years here, I have never seen so much rain !”. A Firetruck approaches and is within sight. Its forced to back up since the water in the street is easily half the way or more up most wheels of the vehicles on the street. The photo below, with the picket fence, the bottom horizontal 2×4 is 14 inches off the ground. So that means the water in the street is easily 15+ inches deep.

The water is steadily climbing. The house across the street, the water is at their front door and at the bottom of the windows in the basement. That house just got renovated.

Here is the view of the flash flood on the street from the front of the house.
Here is the view of the flash flood on the street from the front of the house.

At the back center of the property is a water run off drain. There must be a lot of debris on the drain grate, because that drain is not draining at all. Its starting to creep towards the house. I go to the garage and grab a wooden 2×4 8 feet long and head to that drain, in an effort to clean a hole out big enough to cause a suction to clean out the debris. It takes a while, probably 30 minutes but,  I finally hear the wooooshing of water down the storm drain. A  police car comes by and asks if everything is OK. I politely tell him I am out clearing the storm drain since it is clogged. Everything is as best as it can be, but some of the houses around here have basements, and elderly people, lets hope they are fine.

The water run off storm drain sits close to the maple just off the property line. When it is clogged water builds up fast.
The water run off storm drain sits close to the maple just off the property line. When it is clogged water builds up fast. The property line is 50 feet from the house. THAT’s a lot of water.

The rain is starting to let up some. It goes from buckets a second to a mild rain. In about an hour and 15 minutes after it all began, its partly sunny. That was one heck of a wake-up call for weekend.

I go into the house and assess the damage. The family have most of the windows open and there is definitely a draft throughout. While everyone was here, I explained to them, this could have been a LOT worse. I quickly tell them how to prepare for this and what you can and cannot do. I was lucky in the fact the lawn has a slight slope upwards the closer to the house you get. All the other properties are almost flat and they are probably bad off, with feet of water in basements.

The wee hours of Sunday morning power is restored and sleep is disturbed as electronic items come back on line. I wander through the house and turn the AC on. I want to remove as much moisture as possible. I then remember in the garage, in the back some where is an ancient dehumidifier. I go get that, plug it in and turn it on max.

I have security cameras outside and I had to see what the heck was going on at 6 am in the morning.  In the back of the house, are townhouses. They are set off to an angle . On the video, I see this…whirling dervish come down that path and its probably twenty to thirty feet wide. It travels down the corridor, hits my maple tree and its gone. About fifteen seconds later, the power goes out. My son had driven down the street after the water subsided and seen where the whirling dervish landed. Smack dab on a tree at the corner, knocking the tree down and the main power line for 3 large neighborhoods.

Overall I was lucky, I had enough “tools” and acted quickly enough to keep the damage down to a minimum. The saving grace was the rather loud awakening I got when the daughter noticed water getting into the basement – via the power outlet boxes within the concrete walls…….

This could easily have happened to anyone, anywhere. Preparing for something like this is a must. I am within a 100 year no flood zone, and we have now had TWO flash floods in the past six years. The flash flood in 2012, was by far the worse – so far. Worse than any hurricane I have been through, hands down.

2014 – Severe weather can come in many forms ! 

Take a look at this mid summer thunderstorm that quickly developed. Winds were easily in excess of 60 mph, probably higher. The video lasts only 3 minutes. THIS is why its important to make sure all loose objects are secured if thunderstorms or bad weather is incoming. This storm comes from many different wind angles. Have a look !

Potential Flash Flood scenario – again. 

So, Ironically this weekend – June 2nd and 3rd, 2018 we are under a Flash Flood watch. We can potentially expect three to eight inches of rain, with the majority of it coming Saturday night into Sunday Morning.

Update: June 2nd, 2018, at 17:54 (5:54pm) in less than an hour we have 1.96 inches on the ground. Its now 22:37 (10:37pm) and so far in the past six hours we have had a total of 2.64 inches of rain. We will see what tomorrow holds.

This storm is spinning like a backwards pinwheel, so we will be getting a LOT of rain. Its 1830 on June 2nd, and Thunderstorms are dumping rain as I type.

Thunderstorms are coming from a low pressure west. it is spinning counterclock wise and the majority of rain causes NOAA to enact flash flood watches and warnings.
Thunderstorms are coming from a low pressure west. it is spinning counter clock wise and the majority of rain causes NOAA to enact flash flood watches and warnings.

Things you want to have ready in case bad weather comes your way:

  • Plastic gas cans filled with fresh gas.  Personally, I own 6 to 8 five gallon plastic gas cans. I have four 5 gallon cans filled. I use those throughout the year for the landscaping equipment, and refill when 3 are empty or unstable weather is inbound. Remember, gas pumps require power, so its best to fill these days before pumps run out of gas, or lose power.
  • Gas Stabilizer. Use this in gas powered equipment when storing them away for the fall and winter months. It will save the gas lines from clogging and gas going bad. Mix it up appropriately to label specs and fill the tanks.
  • A generator. I have a 5000 watt Generac Centurion. I bought it from Lowes I think 5 years ago. I start this thing at least three times a year. If I need power away from the house I will occasionally pull the generator out and use it in the back yard, allowing to run for thirty minutes to hours at a time. It allows the generator to get some good run time in and it ensures there are no issues with the fuel lines or the electrical system.
During flash floods or bad weather, enure you have an alternate power source. This will aid in many ways. Make sure you test the tool on a regular basis and use fuel stabilizer.
During flash floods or bad weather, enure you have an alternate power source. This will aid in many ways. Make sure you test the tool on a regular basis and use fuel stabilizer.
  • A sump pump of sorts. A portable pump will do you wonders in a vast amount of situations. It can assist in the draining of flooded locations or can drain a pool or take lake water and help put out field fires if power is available. The model shown can fill a standard garden hose full and shoot it out a good 20 to 30 feet. So make sure the hose is secured before the hose is charged. Specs can be seen on the box.
An Ironton Sump pump that will move a LOT of water quickly. make sure you have an alternate power source if needed, and keep plus out of water if at all possible.
An Ironton Sump pump that will move a LOT of water quickly. make sure you have an alternate power source if needed, and keep plus out of water if at all possible. Keep all parts in box, small items in ziplock bags.
  • Clear any storm drains and water run off areas. If you don’t do this, the water won’t be able to clear the streets or get off the property fast enough. Once water backs up, it is a pain to get it to drain. It can be dangerous to try to clear a clogged drain later, so do it before the storm hits. It can usually be done with an iron rake or a flat shovel.
  • For flash floods make sure the streets are kept clear so water will run off faster and unobstructed.
    For flash floods make sure the streets are kept clear so water will run off faster and unobstructed.

     

    ENSURE the street drains are clear. Otherwise water will backup and water will rise quickly. Use a flat shovel or iron rake. It should take only a few minutes.
    ENSURE the street drains are clear. Otherwise water will backup and water will rise quickly. Use a flat shovel or iron rake. It should take only a few minutes. Shove debris IN, The water pressure will eventually carry it all out.
    should be cleared as ofen as necessary. if you cannot do it, call the city and report a clogged street drain. They will assign a storm water team to fix the issue.
    For Flash Floods, the wider the drain type, the more critical it is. These should be cleared as often as necessary. if you cannot do it, call the city and report a clogged street drain. They will assign a storm water team to fix the issue.

     

  • Improvise where you need to. This water run off ALWAYS gets debris such as limbs and leaves on it which clogs the drain. My son and I rig up a few HEAVY cinder blocks and a metal grate to thwart /catch some of the debris before it gets to the drain grate. This has helped many times and it only takes a few minutes to do.
this water run off drain/ grate fills quickly with water. moving debris will cover it, so make sure these are clean. improvise - come up with a plan to keep it clear.
this water run off drain/ grate fills quickly with water. moving debris will cover it, so make sure these are clean. Improvise – come up with a plan to keep it clear.
  •  You should know your land and the slope. Water tends to travel a path of least resistance. It should flow away from your house and not be allowed to pond up.  Use plastic tubing from your gutter drains so water is pushed out and away from the house.
ENSURE water coming out of the gutters is released as far from the house as possible. Make sure gutters are clear of debris and water flows freely. Use a garden house to clear debris and check flow.
ENSURE water coming out of the gutters is released as far from the house as possible. Make sure gutters are clear of debris and water flows freely. Use a garden house to clear debris and check flow. During flash floods, this is vital.
A house across the street seems to have improper slope and drainage issues. If this happens when a rain shower passes, BIG problems can occur should heavy rains come.
A house across the street seems to have improper slope and drainage issues. If this happens when a rain shower passes, BIG problems can occur should heavy rains come.
  • You can take small steps to prepare for some bad weather. Do yourself a favor and make a list of how to do it. Should something really bad happen, especially at night, you have written instructions that you can read, or some one else can. This will allow others to understand what is important and who may be in the house with you, and safety things others may not be aware of. It also give you a checklist of things to look over and fine tune as lessons are learned. It is far better to be over prepare for something than to be hopelessly unprepared for the worse.
  • Know your NOAA weather channels and how to surf to their web sites. Simply go to google and type in NOAA weather and add your zip code. for example, NOAA weather 23602.
  • Keep abreast of changing weather and you should come out ahead of most situations.