Acqua Alta: The Destruction of my Studio

For hundreds of years the Venetians have lived with the waters of the lagoon--not next to or near, but with. The moon, tides, and storms combine periodically to inundate the city. I've been there to see it; it's impressive. The Venetians cope by donning their Wellies, assembling temporary elevated walkways, and, for the most part, living above the ground floor. The water goes away, they clean up, and move on. So why did I locate my studio in a basement space? Necessity, limited options--whatever--that's where it was. This past Tuesday we were hit with what will probably be called a "50-year flood event"--the second in about 5 years. You do the math. Here's a photo of Dan's weather station. Note that at 9:17AM we reached a maximum rainfall rate of 15.57 inches per hour. All told we got almost 7 inches of rain in less than an hour. And, that's where flash floods come from.

MaxRain Rate
MaxRain Rate

There were people in our neighborhood being rescued from cars trapped in 5 feet of water in an underpass where I've never see water. The storm drains were overwhelmed causing the drain at the bottom of our basement stairs to backup 2 feet of water outside the exterior door to the studio. We have a 2-pump system to deal with just this sort of emergency. It failed (long story; someone's fault; not the ours, the pump's or the pump contractor's). The net result was about 10 inches of water in the basement.

Here's the before. Pretty.

Studio 2013 1130
Studio 2013 1130

In the photo below you can see the water line along the exterior door. We're lucky that this was storm water and not sewage. Some neighbors and friends weren't so lucky.

Photo Jun 10, 3 33 59 PM
Photo Jun 10, 3 33 59 PM

I was able to save almost all of the dyed fabric. This is the beginning of a small mountain that formed in the driveway. I've got 4 garbage bags of ironing waiting for me, but it's better than a total loss.

Photo Jun 10, 3 41 25 PM
Photo Jun 10, 3 41 25 PM

Among the saddest losses was a stack of books I'd just started moving to the basement. Some were rare and out-of-print. It hurts to see any book ill-treated, and destroyed is that much worse. However, all of my workshop notes and dye sample books survived. When I say, "Thanks be to God" I mean every single word!

Photo-Jun-11-4-50-09-PM-e1402752747878-225x300.jpg

So we spent from midday Tuesday until midday Friday packing, cleaning, repairing damaged appliances, pumps, etc., and talking to adjustors, estimators, and other helpful folks.

Photo Jun 11, 5 08 54 PM
Photo Jun 11, 5 08 54 PM

Friday afternoon the cleaning and mitigation team arrived to rip up the floor and cut out 24" of drywall and insulation all the way around the studio and utility room, apply disinfectant, and setup industrial dehumidifiers and fans (many fans). Our contractor comes today to talk about rebuilding.

Photo Jun 12, 5 43 25 PM
Photo Jun 12, 5 43 25 PM

In the end we lost some stuff, a few small appliances (e.g., dehumidifier, condensate pump, vacuum, etc.), but the furnace survived and the hot water heater was repaired. Three of the four sewing machines are OK, despite having their foot pedals submerged (or floating). The fourth machine (my faithful and much loved Bernina 1090) was on the floor. I dried it out and it appears to be running, but acting a little strange. It's going to the repair shop today. I lost a big stack of wool suiting remnants, an entire bolt of felt, blah, blah, blah. Basically everything in a plastic tub survived. After this my whole life is going into plastic tube, ziplocks, and sheet protectors.

Dan and I are both grateful that it wasn't worse. "Why?" is not really a productive question at this point. However, "Never again!" might be a good battle cry. WSSC (the sewer people) has some explaining to do.