Friday, September 23, 2011

Clean up and reconstruction continues. The refrigerator has been cleaned. I plug it in. The freezer starts to freeze, then the circuit breaker trips. The refrigerator is ruined. I will need another refrigerator. I liked this refrigerator. It was upstairs and served me well.

Two dehumidifiers are running. Each morning and evening, I empty their collection buckets. They are always full. That tells me that they are still pulling water out of the Sheetrock. I will turn them off when they start to cycle on and off, telling me that the humidity is now at a normal level. What will my electric bill be with all those machines working?

The company that ordered my Honda generator calls me. My generator has come in. Hurray! I drive into New Haven and pick up my generator. An employee shows me how to operate it. It is quiet and simple. I love my generator all ready and I've never used it. (It is a twin to the one that the Fire Department loaned to me.)

My windows are covered with dried salt water. The film has to be removed. My search for a company to do this has come to a dead end. Do I have to call the company that left a flyer in my mail box? Are they fly-by-night? Are they any good? The only way to find out is to call them.

I am moving into this house for the winter, to enjoy my fireplace. Arrangements have been made to transfer my phone line. Every time I go to Melba Street, I take something with empty the refrigerator, to bring over winter clothes.


Monday, September 12, 2011

When Richard and I bought our house on Melba Street, the real estate agent said We would have to have flood insurance. My house is on a flood plane. It was $80 a year...a little expensive for us, but in order to have a mortgage, We bought flood insurance.

Years later, mortgage is paid off. There is a flood. It was so extensive that claims adjusters were brought in from out of state. The adjuster asked me where did the water come from? Did it break through a window or door? No. The door and windows were fine. My guess was it came through the floor drain...just my guess. The adjuster said that I did not have a flood. I had rising ground water. Claim denied.

I looked at this flood and knew it was the kind that occurs in my area. The mortgage was paid off, so I did not renew the floor insurance. Instead, I added "rising ground water" to my homeowners insurance. It lasted a few years. Then insurance companies stopped offering it.

Instead, my agent added hurricane insurance to my policy. Hurricane Irene stopped by and visited my in law apartment downstairs. I had water and the damage that comes from water. See my blog for parts 1 through 7 on Hurricane Irene.

I called my agent and learned that I am not covered for the damage my house sustained. Hurricane insurance covers wind driven damage only. Claim denied. I asked him what it would cost for me to add flood insurance? He said it will cost me over $1,300 a year in addition to the cost of my homeowners policy. I can't afford this.

I've paid out thousands of dollars for insurance coverage. When I have a claim, I find out I am not covered. I am wondering why I have insurance anyways.


This is a blog in praise of our Police, Fire and Public Works departments. During the hurricane, they activated their emergency response plan. It worked. After my evacuation, the Police and National Guard blocked off the area to prevent looting. There was looting, I was told.

When the water was low enough, I was allowed back in. Right along with me, were the Public Works crews. Bull dozers worked to clear the sand from the road. Other crews picked up the debris. Others cut up downed trees, making the way for the utility companies to repair downed power lines. There were trucks everywhere. I bet the crews worked 12 hour shifts...sometimes sleeping in the catch a quick nap when fatigue overcame them.

My problem was water. How do I get it out of my house without power? I called the Fire Department. They sent over a team that hooked up a gas generator and a submersible pump. Turned it on and away it went. I loved to see the water go out. I loved that little Honda Generator, that I ordered one for myself...just in case there is another flood.

In the middle of this, someone down the street became ill. An ambulance and crew responded. I can't think of another facet of city government that wasn't activated during this emergency. Even the mayor was on the phone with a recorded message reporting on the progress of the clean up and what homeowners should do.

All in all, the emergency response plan worked out just fine. Our city officials were prepared and minimized the damage from Hurricane Irene.


Budget Dry has pushed me up on their schedule. Luther will be here today to clean out my sump pump. I must empty the 2 dehumidifiers. When I step into the apartment, I step ankle deep into more water. Everything is wet again. We have had rain for days. The ground is saturated. There is no place for the water to go, except into low in law apartment. The place must be accessible for the sump pump clean up.

I get my small pool pump, plug it in, attach the garden hose and let it go. By the time Luther gets here, the place is sans puddles.

Luther cleans the pump. He checks the battery and pronounces it dead. The salt water has shorted the battery. It must be replaced. He replaces the battery, runs the hose into the sump and flushes the pump. It is now safe to turn the pump on. Wow, it runs and runs. All that water was sitting in the drain lines with no way to get out. It is brackish. Luther keeps pumping until the water exiting the line is fresh water. All done and ready to work...and here is the bill for over four hundred dollars for an hour's work.

The bad news is that my insurance doesn't cover the cost of any of this. Ernesto will have another bill for me...and another one to purchase insulation and sheet rock...and another bill for repainting...and another bill for cleaning...this one not from Ernesto, but from a cleaning company. Is there no help for me? There is a handbill on my door. It says to call FE MA. So I do.

Several days later, a young girl comes to my house. She reviews my insurance, checks that utility bills are for this address in my name. She checks my ID. Yes I am who I say I am. Yes. I live here. She is an insurance adjuster. I bite my lip to not chat with her about my experiences working for The Hartford Loss Control Department. I see that the pen top laptops are now lighted. That is an improvement from when I used them.
Johanna inspects the property and leaves. What does this mean? Will I get a grant? An interest free loan? Probably not, but I will see.


Monday, September 05, 2011

The power is back on. It is time to get cleaning. From past experience, I learn that time is of the essence. Water will continue to do damage if I let it sit . Mildew grows. Furniture falls apart. Smells develop that no amount of bleach can erase.

Ernesto has use a pressure hose with steam to push all the mud He can get at, to a corner near the sump pump. It is my job to get the rest of the water off the floor. The shop vac is the right tool, but it is a manual job...a hands on experience. The vac gets set up. It is so noisy that I am wearing hearing protection. The nozzle grabs the rug and pulls water and mud and grit out of the carpet. Into the barrel it goes. Turn off the vac. Take the top off the vac. Wheel the barrel to the toilet. Lift. Pour. Repeat and repeat and repeat....for 2 days. My arms are sore...ditto knees and low back, but the water has to come out.

Next chore is to set up a dehumidifier and fans. I've had the fans running with the windows wide open. Now I close them and turn on my new dehumidifier. Nothing happens. Expletive deleted. I have to take it back to the store. I tried it on several outlets. The outlets are working. As I am hauling the 45 pound machine to the truck to return it, a thought occurs to me. I had better read the directions. Read the directions....and learn that the little vertical slash on the front of the machine is the power button. Oh.
Push the vertical line. Machine turns on. It works fine.

I've had the old dehumidifier set aside to dry. It was in the flood and my fear is that it is ruined. ..but it is worth a try. I test it carefully, expecting an electrical arc or nothing at all. It works fine. The second dehumidifier is added to the crew of fans and dehumidifier working away in the apartment. Both dehumidifiers are full by nightfall. They are emptied and reset to run all night.

In the morning, they need emptying again. The windows are opened for fresh air. It is time to tackle the kitchenette...the one room I dread because it is covered with sewerage, mud and grit. What a mess. I don't want to start by scrubbing on my hands and knees. What can I use? First, the broom. Sludge collects into a pile. It gets shoveled into a dust pan and put outside in the mud pile. A lot of sludge leaves the kitchenette that way. Next soldier is the shop vac. This vacuum picks up everything...both wet and dry. I have to move the refrigerator around in the tiny room, but most of the sludge is in the barrel of the shop vac. Out it goes. Repeat. repeat until the floor is merely dirty. Last soldier is water and bleach. On hands and knees, I clean the floor and the cabinets as best I can. They would not pass muster , but that is all I can do for today.

Ernesto comes in the afternoon. He has plans to check the walls for water. We both suspect the Sheetrock and the fiberglass insulation is soaking wet. No matter how hard the fans and dehumidifiers work, We know the walls won't dry out. He cuts a neat square in the wall that confirms the insulation is soaking wet. It is wicking up. It must be cut out and replaced. That is for tomorrow.

The next day Ernesto comes with a helper. These guys are so neat and clean...real European craftsmen. They're from Albania. They lay down a drop cloth. Both get to work removing 2 feet of sheetrock and the wet insulation behind it. Ernesto neatly bags the stuff and takes it to the curb. Public Works trucks are still working the neighborhood. The bags are taken away.

We leave for the night with walls wide open, floor vacuumed and hopefully drying out all right. With the help of friends, progress is being made.

Tomorrow, Luther will be here to clean the sump pump. After cleaning, I will be back in business. Hurray!


Sunday, September 04, 2011

How did the shop vac work when there is no electricity? Ernesto unhooked the Fire Department's pump. He plugged in my shop vac to the Fire Department's generator. Such genius!
There is debris everywhere. There is not much I can do without electricity except to clean up the debris. A pile grows at the curb, similar to piles being added to by my neighbors. My next door neighbor has swept a mountain of mud from his garage and driveway. To it I add a soggy and broken TV stand, debris that was driven in by wind and rain. My across the street neighbor has lost their central air conditioner, shingles and a riser from their steps. The riser is in my yard. Police cars patrol up and down the road, presumably to stop looters. Public Works trucks and Fire Trucks are all over the street. One neighbor has a medical emergency. Add an ambulance, another Fire truck, and several more Policemen to the Frey.
I had put masking tape on my new patio doors to distribute any wind gusts on the glass. No broken glass , thank goodness. The tape can come down, but my! the glass is dirty with salt water smear mixed with dirt and bits of mulch from the garden.
My cell phone is missing. I look everywhere for it. I need my phone to arrange for a cleaning crew. It is needed to call the company that installed my drain system and sump pump. Chris , while in my house during the storm, reported that the pump worked beautifully, until our utility company cut power. Then it continued working for 3 hours on battery backup. If I had my emergency generator in place, I would have avoided the damage I now survey.
The phone is working at my other house. I called Budget Dry. They told me that the pump is designed to work with clean water. If I turn on the pump with salt water and mud, the pump will get clogged, burn out and void the warranty. I make an appointment to have the sump pump cleaned. Its another bill not covered by insurance.
The Second call is to Service Pro...a cleaning service. Some people called this company in the middle of the hurricane. They are first on the list. How far down am I on the list? If I wait for them, the water will continue to do damage. There is nothing to do accept face the fact that I must start cleaning as soon as the power comes back on.
Before the hurricane, I'd moved smaller pieces of furniture upstairs where it was safe and dry. Now I moved arm chairs. An inspection of the bed and table shows they just made it above the high water line. I do not have to throw out the mattress. Their feet will dry out OK, I hope.


Friday, September 02, 2011

I can't get to my house. The street is running with water. Cars that were not moved to higher ground are now ruined in the salt water. Chris and his dog, Lucy, are neighbors living across the street. We had a mandatory evacuation. Chris refused to leave, so I said He could stay in my house because it was higher. Chris accepted. After the hurricane, I could not reach him. I was so worried about this young man. Why had He not called me? He has my cell phone number and I have his. I tried to reach him and got no answer.
His car is parked in my driveway.
After the National Guard and the Police allow us in, I drive through the flood and look for Chris. The apartment is definitely flooded. I can't get the door open. There must be water in front and in back of that door.
The main level door works. I call for Chris, looking in every room. He is not there. Such relief. He was not stranded in my house...but His car is.
The next stop is Chris' house. There He is. He has not called me because His cell phone battery is dead and there is no electricity in the area. He has water on the floor. The yard is washed away. Pieces of concrete are everywhere. Someone had their foundation crack. Yellow tape and "Unsafe. Do not enter." sign is on the building. Many people had it worse than I did. A few summer cottages were washed away. That is incredible. I've lived on Melba Street for 34 years and never saw a storm like this one.
I know from past experience that the first order of business is to get the water out. Per my call, the Fire Department brings a submersible pump and a gasoline fueled generator. In no time, the apparatus is pumping water out of my apartment. My job...the only one I can do at this job is clear out the dry well in front of the apartment door. There is debris floating on a scummy pond in front of the door. The dry well is supposed to drain away that sort of thing. It never worked right. I had better get the water and debris out of there. My tools come from what I can find located under the kitchen sink.
Ernesto comes with another generator and pump. This one can get the water level down even further. Bless that man!
Pat comes by to see if she can help. She mentions my shop vac at the other house, but there is no electricity to run the shop vac. Pat points out that I can use the Fire Department's generator to run the shop vac. Of course! I drive to Park Circle, get the shop vac and We set it up. Ernesto uses the shop vac to clean the dry well. He must pick up the vac, carry it up the steps and dump it. It is very heavy, filled with filthy water...and probably sewerage, too but he manages to do it. Nothing much to do now. Time to go home and clean up. I will start clean up tomorrow.