Mike’s birthday was two weeks ago; we celebrated in front of a roaring blaze in the backyard fire pit. As we wrapped it up around 10 (it was a school night and, moreover, we are old), little flakes of snow started to drift down. We basked in the glow of the bonfire and enjoyed the lovely scene.
The next morning, it was still snowing. In fact, it snowed almost nonstop that week, and by last Saturday the fire pit, and the previous icy crust surrounding it, were covered with a foot of new snow. It took nearly all day to clear our 100-foot-long driveway. Snow here falls pretty dry and light, but the longer you wait, the harder it will be to remove it. We got on task fairly early, which saved us from having heart attacks. (I had been told in September by the county plow dude that it was unusual to get more than a couple inches at a time, so we’d limited our snow-removal equipment purchases to a single shovel.)
Monday, I skied the field with the dogs. Tuesday, it was too soft. Wednesday, the new snow had collapsed and was melting into torrents of cold water. Since we live on a slope, everything above us ran toward the house.
Water takes the easiest route available to it. When it got to our house, some of it went around and some of it went through. Through the foundation, that is, and then pooled in the furnace and laundry rooms.
This is called a “water event.” Where we live now and where we lived in the Columbia River Gorge are, mostly, different. There was forested and here is cleared. There has Douglas fir and here has tamarack. There has Cascades running north and south, and here has Wallowas running east and west. One thing the properties have in common is slope, and slope means when there’s water, there’s running water.
In Get Your Pitchfork On!, I write about the struggles we had in the Gorge to keep our swales from eroding into deep chasms and collapsing banks. But we’d never had water in the house.
Thursday morning we took turns with the shop vac, hauling 35 gallons of water out of the basement in five-gallon increments. The trouble was, where to put it. Lugging a sloshing pail of meltwater out the basement door, I realized the carport was also flooded.
Mike initiated a trenching campaign, digging channels in the snow to coax the water across our backyard and around the house, and then draining the carport into the field below it. I made one trench myself: It was fascinating to spade a path through the snow and watch the water take it over. It reminded me of childhood engineering projects in the woods near my house.
I generally love the sound of a babbling brook, but not so much when it is running under my porch. As with the snow, it was in our best interest to address the water right away. The trenching saved us gallons of vacuumed water in the basement.
Now, the worst seems to be past us. The carpet in the basement will need to be cleaned, and then we will put Water Event 2014 behind us.