Nothing like getting the annual winter call from the tenant at Morton Hall….
“Laurie, hey. Hate to call you about this but the pipe in (your kitchen, your bathroom, underneath my sink etc.) froze and there is water everywhere. I turned off the water, but there’s a mess to clean up.” So Friday evening’s call at 5:02 p.m. was a little bit worse, “Laurie, hey. Hate to call you but the water main blew in the cellar and the water is just inches from the bottom of the electrical panel (think about 4’ here, guys). I can’t find a way to reach a cut off or turn the pump off.”
Where is the cutoff you ask? Right beside the electrical panel, of course, which is about 2 feet from the basement steps, which seems like an entire ocean when you are looking at electrical appliances and electrical cords floating in 4’ of water.
So MY annual call to Tom, the wonder plumber usually goes like this, “Hey, Tom. Happy New Year! How is everything going? How are the kids, wife, new farm. All the typical niceties and little catch ups and then the little laugh and drop the bomb of, “so of course a pipe exploded. Not a big deal but can you get out and repair it so the tenant has water as soon as possible? Great. Thanks. Hey, while you are there, could you give me a price on (insert whatever small improvement I was planning to make). Great! Thanks so much!
Quite a difference from this year’s call at 5:04 pm, “Tom, this is Laurie from Morton Hall. I have an emergency. Please call me. I’m going to try the office.” Called the office at 5:04 pm and of course they were closed. Come on, it was a slow Friday. But used their emergency contact info and left a message there and tried calling Tom again at 5:06 p.m. Got him, this time. He has already started out the door and is in the truck (have I mentioned before how much I LOVE my plumber and contractor out there?); apparently I am not known for crying wolf! I explain the problem and he says he can turn off the pump from outside at the well but he cannot pump the water out because his pump seized up and he is traveling for the weekend. Tom makes it out there and has the pump turned off at 5:40 p.m.
He calls me and is his normal calm, dry delivery self, but I can tell he’s laughing. So, was the situation exaggerated? Nope….he just finds it funny that everything is floating around in the cellar including the holding tank, glass carboys etc; says it looks so weird! Great…..sigh….is it really 4’ high of water? Yep. Got to be up to my waist, at least. A quick debate about his short legs ensues….instructions on how to pump out the cellar and a debate between me, him and the owner of the company who wants Tom to pull the electric meter so there is no chance of electrocution. Tom and I agree we don’t want to do that. Water is still a couple inches below the electric panel at this point and with no more water coming in, water level should recede since bottom of cellar floor is pee gravel and sand.
So by 6 pm on Friday I now know what Kelly and I are doing on Saturday. I arrange for rental of mud pumps (basically sump pumps with 2” fire hoses that put out 60 gallons a minute; another option which Tom recommended was a gas powered mud pump which pumps out 384 gallons a minute, but small engines and I rarely get along and the suction hose is rigid and would be difficult to fit in a mini-van. After seeing the set up at Home Depot, I was very glad I did not have to go with that option; just looked to unwieldy for Kelly and I to deal with. Of course, I get to the Hyattsville Home Depot and yes they have the two pumps they promised me, but only one hose since the other hose has a hole in it. Fine. Take the one pump and hose and stop at Annapolis Home Depot. Same situation, but by the time I leave there, I have two pumps and two hoses. We get to the house at about 1 pm and take a quick look:
Luckily, the night before I had gone through the “what can possibly go wrong” scenarios in my head and had asked Kelly to bring WD-40, bolt cutters etc. just in case I could not find the keys for the padlock on the cellar door. So, while she’s unloading and running electrical cords to the outside cellar door, I’m trying the keys; of course, no key for the lock and her brother Robbie was right, neither of us have the hand strength to use the “cute” bolt cutters that he had to open the lock. So we switch tasks and I start setting up to drop a pump through the basement door on the side entrance while Kelly cut through the lock with the Dremel. Amazing how short a 50′ fire hose is; luckily, Kelly found a use for the big 3″ CPVC pipe that has been laying in the hallway for a couple years and was able to extend the reach past the side steps! We also discover that this hose has a hole in it, right in the middle of the hallway; duct tape to the rescue!
I had done some calculations on water volume etc. (I still hold to my opinion I did not need to learn this stuff in school; they have all the formulas on the Internet, you know!) and estimated that at 4’ of water, we had about 37,000 gallons. When we arrived, there was a definite water line on the walls and it looked like the water had gone down about a foot. So that took us to about 27,000 gallons of water that needed to be removed. With two pumps going and putting out 7200 gallons an hour, we were looking at about 4 hours of pumping. A quick check at 2:30 showed that I seemed to be about right, as the top of the 9th step was now showing.
We left for a couple hours and when we arrived back at about 4 p.m., found that we were down to less than ankle deep water and had to move pumps around to get the last deep bits out. We also found that the car had sunk into the mud and was now stuck. We multi-tasked for the next hour or so, rocking and pushing the car, packing up and cleaning equipment as much as possible and finally pushing the van out of the mud. We left the house at about 5:30 pm feeling quite accomplished and congratulating ourselves on an eerily easy task. Not sure if we were just due for a change, are so used to now planning for all contingencies or the fact that when little disasters occur, we just roll with it! Of course, the worst is probably yet to come. Tom will be back out on Wednesday to assess, repair and let me know how much this little disaster is going to cost me. Am really hoping my new softening system which was put in last year made it through!