Martin Mapes is bringing in reinforcements.
Expecting a deluge of both rain and frantic phone calls from residents whose basements are flooding, the general manager for Paul Davis Restoration in Omaha is pulling in workers from Lincoln, Chicago and Kansas for damage duty.
The company handles home clean-ups and restoration, including water damage.
“We’ve received no less than 300 calls in the last 48 hours,” Mapes said. “We’re rallying all the troops. It will be a constant struggle here in the next 48 hours.”
Nebraskans are nervously scanning the skies and checking their basements for water creeping in as forecasters and home contractors warn of flooding that could do some damage.
3.16 gallons into our basement every 1 minute! We finally gave up after 8 hours and moved and lifted furniture. There isn't even any snow around the house at all. The gutters are clear. It's crazy.— Health Coach Group (@CathySykora) March 13, 2019
The heavy rainfall is mingling with melting snow and ice, which could heighten the risk of flooding.
“There’s always a rainy season every year,” said Jess Lightner, the content manager for basement and foundation company Thrasher Inc. in Papillion. “This year in particular, there’s all this snow that we’ve got that’s melting off. The issues are kind of compounded.”
By midday Wednesday, the Westlake Ace Hardware at 140th Street and West Center Road was sold out of tube sand and utility pumps, an employee said. Customers were still streaming in to buy shop vacs and sump pumps.
Local contractors and insurance agents offered tips on how to prevent problems and what to do if you’ve got a wet basement.
Check those gutters and downspouts
If you’re worried about water, make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean of debris.
Warmer weather should be melting ice that’s accumulated on roofs or in downspouts, but make sure rain is draining out and away from your house and foundation, said James Hartkorn, the owner of Midlands Home Solutions in La Vista. If stubborn snow piles are still blocking water movement, dig a little trench to redirect rainwater.
Heavy snow and ice can also throw gutters out of alignment. And if you’ve got gutters connected to a drain tile in your yard, make sure it’s not covered in snow or frozen over.
Keep an eye out for water damage
A torrent of water doesn’t always rush dramatically into a home or basement, said Lightner from Thrasher.
Water may seep in where your foundation walls meet the footing in the basement, or through cracks in the wall. You may notice higher moisture or humidity levels. If you’ve got a sump pump, make sure it’s running properly.
Second sump pump is working. That only happens when the first one is operating at maximum capacity. I got everything off the basement floor that I could. I've cleaned around the downspouts. Nothing to do but hope I don't hear the water alarms to go off.— joan o'reilly (@joan8904) March 13, 2019
Thrasher works more on the front-end, by waterproofing basements and installing drainage systems.
“Obviously if you have a finished basement space, it’s important to protect that investment,” Lightner said. “Even water in unfinished basements can lead to issues with mold, higher humidity levels.”
Time to bust out the fans and wet vacs
OK, you did your best but there’s still a half-foot of water in your basement. What now?
You can call a professional crew to clean up, but if you’re more of a DIY-er, try to mitigate the damage, Mapes said. Suck up as much water as you can, pull back any carpet and cut the wet parts from the carpet pad.
Crank the heat to get air circulating and dry things out.
“Even a few little dehumidifiers, that’s better than nothing,” he said.
And reconsider your basement storage situation, he advises. Try to put belongings in plastic bins with covers and put them up on a shelf, if possible.
Is water starting to rise? Call your insurance agent
If water starts creeping into your basement or through sliding-glass doors, find the source, try to stem the damage and call your homeowners insurance agent, advised Eric Petersen, the founder of P&P Insurance Agency in Omaha.
“(Take) photos so you can document what’s happening, and then that’s going to help the decision down the road if it’s a covered loss or not,” he said.
Flood insurance for low-lying or flood-prone areas is underwritten by the government. If you don’t have it now, you can’t purchase a last-minute policy: There’s a 30-day wait period, Petersen said.
We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but water 💦in your basement from seepage isn't a covered loss.😬 What is covered? Backup of sewer or sump pump failure, if a pipe bursts, if your water heater or a hose on your washing machine or dishwasher, etc … https://t.co/NYvg5UDBH5— United Ins. Agencies (@UIAgencies) March 13, 2019
“You can’t add it because, hey, we see the water coming, or the ark needs to be built,” Petersen said.
Those policies can be expensive for people living near rivers or creeks in the flood plain, but cheaper for homeowners who don’t live next door to the Elkhorn River, he said.
Most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover water that comes in through your patio doors, for example, although some policies may cover damage for water that comes in through a sewer drain or failed sump pump.
“Talk to your agent, find out what coverage you have,” Petersen said.