Tag Archives: flooding

The Danger of Flash Floods

There are a few different types of floods, and one of the most dangerous variations is the flash floods. Flash floods are when there is an overflow of water onto dry land caused by heavy and excessive rain fall in a short period of time. What makes these floods so dangerous is a lot of the time you can’t really prepare for them since they happen on such short notice and the fact that the water usually moves at very high speeds.

Flash floods are the most deadly type of floods, killing more people annually than tornados, hurricanes, and lightning. This video above showcases some examples of flash floods from this past year. The video shows just how dangerous these floods can really be and how they can happen almost out of no where.

The best response to any signs of flash flooding is to move immediately and quickly to higher ground. Cars can be easily be swept away in just 2 feet of moving water. If flood waters rise around a car, it should be abandoned. Passengers should climb to higher ground.


Puerto Rico Receives Help from NYC First Responders After Hurricane Maria

On Wednesday, September 20, 2018, Hurricane Maria slammed into the island of Puerto Rico. This was the strongest hurricane to strike the island in over 80 years. Hurricane Maria left near apocalyptic conditions  in its wake: toppled power lines, extensive flooding, and utter devastation to so many homes and structures. Even basic necessities such as fresh water, fuel and phone service have been interrupted, resulting in a growing humanitarian crisis.

Help on the Way:  According to NBC 4 New York, First Responders from New York City flew down to Puerto Rico this past Saturday, September 23. Their goal is to assist the island’s overwhelmed emergency management center. This will no doubt be a protracted clean-up effort as Puerto Rico works to rebuild.

“This is total devastation. Puerto Rico, in terms of the infrastructure, will not be the same. … This is something of historic proportions.”

Carlos Mercader, spokesman for Puerto Rico’s governor

Evacuating due to flooding in Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria.
Credit: Jose Rodrigo Madera for CNN



Mountains of Mud in Boulder, Colorado

SAND VS. MUD: With 16,000 homes impacted by the historic flooding that occurred in Boulder, Colorado last week, many people are facing a mountain of clean up. Unlike Hurricane Sandy that decimated the eastern coastline last fall, dumping tons of sand in the streets, the flooding in Colorado brought mud – and lots of it.


Hurricane Sandy 2012 – Hauling sand from the streets in NYC

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS (AND STRANGERS): Coming to the help of those buried in Boulder are numerous volunteers willing to help sling some mud. With an assist from social media, those in need are quickly able to connect with volunteers willing and ready to help them shovel mounds of muddy sludge from their flood ravaged homes. What started as a grassroots effort has sprung into a website, one that  depicts a map showing where volunteers are needed.  Though the clean up efforts will take months, those whose homes and lives have been touched by the flood will hopefully feel empowered by the outreach from the community.  “I get by with a little help from my friends,”  John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Photo credit: AP Mud encrusted homes in the aftermath of the Boulder flood - 2013

Photo credit: AP
Mud encrusted homes in the aftermath of the Boulder flood – 2013

To help with the clean up efforts visit: www.donateboulder.com 

Top 7 Tips to Handle Basement Flooding

On the heels of extensive flash flooding occurring in parts of Boulder, Colorado today, I wanted to offer some useful tips to those facing basement flooding. As someone who has dealt with this issue on numerous occasions, and much worse (hey, that’s why we’re elevating our house), I’ve learned a few things.  *if your house has endured flooding higher than your basement, you’ve come to the right place.

Dumpster needed to dispose of flood damaged walls, floors, insulation, etc.

Dumpster needed to dispose of flood damaged walls, floors, insulation, etc.


1. TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY: The longer water sits, the more damage it is going to cause to everything that it touches.

2.  FLOOD WATER VS. GROUND WATER:  Whenever there is excessive water with no where else to go, it will find its way in – it’s sneaky that way. Determine if the water in your basement is floodwater or ground water. The former is a much bigger problem. Floodwater is composed of pesticides, chemical run off, animal waste, etc. It’s nasty. Ground water that seeps into your basement through the foundation is usually clean, hence a much easier clean up process.

3. SAFETY FIRST: Water is a phenomenal conductor of electricity – ever wonder why they insist on emptying the swimming pool at the first clap of thunder? Use caution when entering an area where the floor is covered with water. If the water is covering any electrical outlets, don’t go in  – unless you are confident that you know how to shut of the electricity  to this area first.

4. CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY: This is an area they should be well versed in as flooding happens everywhere. They can advise you on how to file a claim, let you know what is covered and what is not, and possibly provide some names of service providers to assist you with the clean-up. Your homeowners insurance may or may not cover this. If you have flood insurance, the link below will help you determine what is covered in a basement and what is not:


5. TAKE PICTURES OF EVERYTHING: If you plan to submit a claim to your insurance company, document everything before you start your clean up efforts. The more pictures you have, the better odds of getting reimbursed. Everything from your carpets, to shoes, to toppled over furniture, etc. If you have them, gather receipts for everything that you want to claim, it will expedite the insurance process.

6. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT: Only after you have taken many pictures should you begin to clean up the area. If you are dealing with floodwater, it’s easy – almost everything should be thrown into a pile to be thrown out. If you have content insurance as part of your flood insurance policy, an insurance adjuster may want to see all of the damaged items – so don’t throw them away just yet. Keep the items in a heap pile outside, if you are able.

If it’s ground water that has flooded your basement, you can safely keep almost everything that was not destroyed by the water. Water is surprisingly destructive. Area rugs should be rolled up and sent out to be professionally cleaned. Wall-to-wall carpeting may or may not be able to be salvaged, depending upon how badly it was saturated. The main problem you are going to need to mitigate against is mold.

7. CONTACT SERVICE PROFESSIONALS: There are many service providers who are experts at dealing with basement flooding. Let them help you. They cover everything from pumping out the water to sanitizing the space to throughly drying it out. The methods they may employ to dry out the space generally comes in the form of heat and/or industrial fans.

Flood Savvy

Basement flooded in 2004

Drying equipment to dry out basement that had been flooded.

Drying equipment to dry out basement that had been flooded.

The photo above shows several drying equipment pieces that were used to provide 24 hours of a high-heat blast to the basement in an effort to dry it out.  This was after a flood event in 2011.  We’ve used this technique as well as industrial fans to accomplish the same outcome. In my opinion, the fans do a better job.

If you have repeated basement flooding there are techniques you can use to mitigate against suffering through this problem again – provided the flooding is minimal. Any number of “Dry Basement” type companies should be able to help you moving forward.

Ultimately for us, we moved all of the mechanicals out of the basement and relocated them to an attic space above our garage.  A few years later, we began this current project of elevating the entire house to mitigate against any kind of the flooding.

Flash Floods in Boulder, Colorado

FREAK STORM: Boulder, Colorado awoke to extensive flash flooding this morning, brought on my overnight heavy rainfall amounts. Everyone understands and appreciates the damage that a wild coastal storm can bring to an area, but even landlocked states endure flooding concerns. The combination of too much water + too short a period of time = flooding. Every time.

FLOOD WATER VS. GROUND WATER: There is a big distinction between flood water entering your home versus ground water seeping in through the foundation (as a  result of the water tables beneath your house rising). Flood water is riddled with pesticides, chemical run off, and possibly even sewage. As a result, if flood water enters your home, I’d advise you to throw out anything that can not be properly sanitized. If the water is seeping up through the ground, it’s a matter of drying everything out to avoid the risk of mold developing.

The link below has the latest news and photos from the flash floods in Boulder, Colorado: kdvr.com/2013/09/12/live-blog-flash-flood-emergency/

The Lord has Spoken: Giving Away Millions of Dollars

WEEK 13:  Earlier this week I spoke with Rick Lord, Chief of Mitigation Programs & Agency Preservation Officer for the New York State Office of Emergency Management. I had contacted him in hopes of securing some of the $230 million dollars FEMA had given to the state of New York for flood mitigation. Lord is the head of the program in charge of distributing the money statewide.

MILLIONS OF DOLLARS: This huge pile of money was sanctioned by the federal government and, according to Lord, all 50 States received this same amount as part of a Hazard Mitigation Grant. To date 1,232 homes in New York have benefited. In large part the money is being used to assist homeowners with elevation projects and acquisitions to mitigate against flooding. Homes impacted by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and tropical storm Lee that same year are eligible as well as the infamous Super Storm Sandy.

PLEASE, SIR, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE: How does it work and may I have a piece of that government pie? Well, for starters, homeowners can not apply themselves. The application must come from the city or town government office in which the home is located (very inconvenient). By definition, your city or town must participate in all flood mitigation rules and regulations to qualify for this money and be willing to jump through the government red tape for you. Next, your county must have been declared a national disaster during one of the above mentioned flood events. Your flood insurance category must be deemed “severe repetitive loss” and the extent of the damage must have exceeded 50% of the value of the house. For homes in metro New York – good luck meeting that threshold. If you want/need to live within an hour of New York City, the cost is set at a premium. See link below for more stats:


If your home meets all of the above criteria, it may be eligible for up to $30,000 toward an elevation project. I’m not sure what the acquisition top dollar would be – but I’m willing to guess that Uncle Sam can not afford to buy out many homes in Westechester County.

YOU’LL GET NOTHING AND LIKE IT! Final nail in the coffin for my home – if work has already begun toward elevating  your house,  your home is automatically disqualified. Seriously. Not that we would have qualified anyway, but penalizing initiative seems to go against the grain of the American way.

It’s Functional, Not Pretty

NEW FLOOD TECHNOLOGY: In a recent post I commented on the flood prevention technology being utilized in the subway stations of Nagoya, Japan. The floodgates are designed to protect the subway system from suffering extensive damages during a flood event. However, my contention is that any preventative measure that requires human activation and /or electricity to operate, suffers a potentially fatal flaw.

WHY? BECAUSE IT WORKS: Instead, I would investigate the feasibility of installing permanent concrete steps leading up to the subway entrance, creating a concrete barrier to flood waters. This flood prevention model has been utilized in some residential settings as seen in the picture below:

Flood mitigation via concrete stairway

Flood mitigation via concrete stairway

Notice the doorway in the photo above, under the exterior light fixture. In order to reach the door, you must first ascend several steps before going down several stairs to reach the door. This works to create a flood barrier protecting the entry door on all sides. This same idea could be extrapolated for use in the subway system design thereby creating a permanent flood barrier.

STEADY REMINDER: I’m not suggesting this idea comes without it’s own downsides (they would be cumbersome for many people to navigate, for starters), but they would always be at the ready. As an added benefit, they’d also serve as a permanent visual reminder of flooding that has occurred in the past – revealing their own cautionary tale, lest anyone forget.

Link to article about the Japanese subway system floodgate: en.rocketnews24.com/2013/09/06/nagoya-surprises-citizens-by-unveiling-new-flood-prevention-technology/ 

Nagoya surprises citizens by unveiling new flood prevention technology

The floodgates in the pictures above provide a simple, yet effective means to prevent extensive damage from floodwaters. In October 2012, when Super Storm Sandy ravaged New York City, many subway stations there were forced to shut down, stranding many New Yorkers. As NYC looks for means to combat the increasing threat of rising sea levels and increased incidents of extensive flooding, these floodgates offer one solution.

But I believe there is a better solution. The downside to floodgates,  from my standpoint, is that they would require constant maintenance and human intervention to be properly implemented during a flood. What else could the city do to offer protection? Build cement steps at the entry of the subway, rising up several steps, before leading to the down staircase. A full time cement barrier. They would not be susceptible to mechanical failure or require any personnel to implement them during a flooding event. Yes, they would be expensive to build, but far less expensive than the seawater swirling around in the subway tunnels caused.

The pictures above are very compelling.

House Elevation Project Runs Amok

WEEK NINE:  A big disappointment  – that sums up week nine of our house elevation project. The lifting company, Payne, was ready to return to the site, but the construction crew did not have the site sufficiently prepped. As Payne is jamming with business, they did not have the luxury of time to sit around and wait. They moved on to their next job in the queue. Cost to our project? A one week delay in action. One week of virtually nothing being accomplished. Zero progress.

IS THAT A SPRITE? We now stand a better chance of finding a family of fairies living in our backyard than being back in our house on time. When time management runs amok, delays are inevitable. So in addition to last week’s expensive overages, there are now project productivity issues. My construction team is making it really easy not to like them.

THE SUNNY SIDE: But, fresh on the heels of 13 states experiencing extensive flooding in the Midwest last week, I’m still happy to be involved in this house elevation project. One day, in the not too distant future, I’ll be able to relax on my new back deck enjoying my new-and-improved elevated views, knowing that my house is protected from flooding.  I”m down, but not out.

For news of Midwest’s extensive pounding by floodwater:


Can You Still Have A Basement in a Floodplain?

WEEK 8: Most of the work occurring on our house elevation project this week are of the unseen nitty-gritty sort. The construction crew is preparing for the return of Payne, our lifting company, by completing the last few foundation projects: aligning the proper height all walls, erecting support beams under the crawl space in the rear of our house, fortifying the cinder blocks, and beginning to fill in the basement.

Can you still have a basement?: No, we will not have a basement in the traditional sense of the word. Historically, the basement evolved as a cool, dry, place to store food and provisions. Over time that idea expanded into habitable living space. As building codes developed, the placement of basement/foundation walls were formally established. In short, foundation walls have to be dug below your area’s frostline. In metro New York, the frost line is four feet deep. That means all the foundation walls have to be dug at least four feet below grade. It makes sense to dig a bit deeper, hollow out that space, and have a usable basement. Ever wonder why so many houses in the northern states have basements vs. those in the south? That’s why. The frost line in many southern states is mere inches. No need to dig as deep and incur an unnecessary expense.

Just because your foundation walls are four feet (or more in colder climates) deep, does not mean you have to hollow out the space and create a ‘basement.’ In fact, in a floodplain, you can not do this. What happens to our current basement? It gets backfilled with gravel and other materials then covered with cement, eliminating any below grade space. This new area is now referred to as the “lowest floor.” By floodplain management regulations, the lowest floor below base flood elevations may only be used for storage, parking, and building access.

As the new foundation wall is constructed, space is allocated for one of the  flood vents.

The new foundation walls are at least four feet below grade, as per proper building code for our location.

In the picture above, our son, Luke, is standing on a ruble pile that was once our basement. Behind him space has been allocated in the foundation wall for a flood vent, a window, and space to remove the steel beams that currently support the house. Once the house is lowered back down onto the new foundation, the gaps for the steel beams will be closed. The flood vent demonstrates where the new floor will be poured. The wooden cribbing will be removed once the house sits on the foundation and is no longer supported by the steel beams supplied by the lifting company.

More things I never planned to learn:  The foundation walls are made of cement cinder blocks fitted with steel rebarb. The rebarb serves to support the cinder blocks along with cement that is meticulously poured down each row of blocks, as seen in the picture below.  The walls will also be a formidable opponent for any flood. (Again, our house does not incur high velocity flooding).

interior of cinder blocks

interior of cinder blocks showing the poured cement

Just in case you can’t get enough information on basements:



Wet Flood Proofing: an Oxymoron?

WET FLOOD PROOFING: This is generally the least expensive floodproofing technique, but it’s also the least effective in the long term. The strategies here result in a home still suffering through a flood, but strive to decrease the damage to the home and your contents.  Techniques that fall under this definition include installing flood vents to minimize structural damage, relocating the electrical panel and the utilities above the base flood elevation (BFE), anchoring the foundation and any fuel tanks to minimize movement or destruction and protecting your personal belongings.

Elevated air handlers

Elevated air handlers

This technique requires active participation on the part of the homeowner. Many times, if not most, there are days of warning prior to a flood hitting your home. With the exception of a flashflood and possibly a catastrophic tsunami, you have time to move your personal belongings out of harms way. Get busy! Move your stuff!

Using cinder blocks to protect belongings one idea.

Using cinder blocks to lift items above projected flood levels is one idea.

PROTECT YOUR CONTENTS: A simple idea to protect personal belongings is to utilize a section of your home that does not flood, e.g, a second floor, and start by moving everything upstairs. Family pictures, important documents, anything you don’t want to be destroyed – move it. We’ve used this method several times. It’s exhausting, but effective. Another idea to protect your home’s contents is to rent out storage space at a storage facility. Most times your flood insurance will cover these costs after a flood warning has been issued.  We utilized this option during a flood threat and basically emptied the entire family room (couches, tables, toys, books, etc.). This option provides great piece of mind, but a bit more planning. During the last flood event, before we decided to lift our house, I decided if I had to move all of my furniture anyway, I may as well move it out of the house altogether. That way it would be easier to start the clean-up and rebuilding process.

Wet Floodproofing will still leave you with a big clean-up effort, requires active participation just prior to the flood event, and offers no reductions in flood insurance premiums. It’s better than nothing – much better. When the water’s rising, do something – even if it’s just moving all of the items in your house upstairs.

House Lift Elevation: First Steps

WEEK 5 of our lift project and the actual lifting is set to begin. 

After spending more than a week preparing the house it was ready for the big lift.  Ever so slowly, one wooden beam (about 6 inches) at a time, the house was lifted.  A wooden beam (also known as cribbing) was inserted at every pressure point, then lifted another 6 inches, etc., until the predetermined height was reached. Total time: about 5 hours for this portion.


House pulls away from the foundation

The house pulls away from the foundation easier than you might think it would. There is nothing but gravity holding the structure of the house onto this nearly 85 year old foundation.


Above is a before picture showing the rectangular cuts into the foundation wall so the steel beams could be ever-so-carefully inserted. Notice the property fence? There is little room to maneuver in this space.

After ...

After the beams had been carefully inserted on all sides of the house, the actual lift began. It was lifted straight up, bit-by-bit. The foundation wall, in our case, had to be knocked down, as can be seen in the picture above. Our boys were very curious about every detail.

Before ...


Above is a picture of our house prior to the lift … 

Our boys checking out the site

AFTER: Checking out the site

… and here is our house after the lift process. Note the steel beams reaching out from the former garage space. Also, the stairs have been removed, the gas and water lines have been cut and capped, and the landscape has been taken to scorched earth.

The door over their heads used to be one step from the garage floor.

Standing under the house. 

Once the house been lifted, we were able to walk underneath it. Here you can clearly see the steel beams that run in a cross-wise pattern to support the house.  The door above used to be only one step from the garage floor. The boys took it all in stride, like it was some sort of Lincoln Log project.

Back of house: Before

 Before …

This photo above shows what the back of our house used to look like. Of note, there were two steps to get inside. During several of our floods, the water made its way into this back room, coming up to the bottom edge of the window.


… After

All the cribbing is in place, buttressing the steel beams that support the house. The house is finally out of the path of a flood. Can I get a “hell yeah!”

However, the lift is actually the easy part of this job. Next our construction crew has to come in to rebuild the foundation walls which should take about 3 weeks. Then, Payne Construction, our lifting company, returns to remove the steel beams and lower the house about a foot onto the new foundation. After that, the construction crew returns again to add the stairs, renovate the necessary interior spaces, reconnect the water, electricity, gas, etc., etc., etc.