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January 4, 2008
The worst storm in two years

The trees outside our house are buffeted by 100-mph winds

One of our best Christmas presents this holiday season was a last-minute visit by our 30-year-old daughter Colleen from Michigan. We hadn’t seen or heard much from her since she got married last May, so it was great that she had some free time to fly out (although her new husband was not able to join her). She arrived for a week in the middle of a head cold. Nevertheless, one of her goals in California was to finally visit our mountain property, which she had never seen.

The best time would be the first weekend in January, after all of the family gatherings were out of the way. The forecast was for rain, but with our walls and roof now secure, we would be safe and comfortable inside the house. Gail was actually looking forward to it; we had not yet been up in inclement weather since the house had been sealed. As for Colleen, rain was certainly better than Midwest snow. Everyone looked forward to sitting inside a nice warm and dry house, watching the rain outside.

As we got nearer to the date, the weather reports started getting more dramatic. Saturday, January 4, was now expected to be “the worst storm in two years” (since New Year’s Eve 2005), with three inches of rain and 100 mph winds expected. We planned to drive up Friday (before the storm) and return Sunday (after the storm), so we weren’t worried.

Cameron was unavailable for this trip, but the rest of us had a leisurely drive up and arrived in mid-afternoon (Colleen drove up in the Prius, while the rest of us drove up in the van). After a nice afternoon and dinner, we settled in for the night.

The storm hit at about midnight. By 2:00 am, Gail and Colleen were both shaken wide awake by the sound of the wind. Gail was convinced that she heard something rattling in the ceiling. Using a flashlight, she discovered that the wind was so strong, it had actually blown out the insulation that we had stuffed between the wall and the roof panel in the master bedroom. The loose insulation was now rattling around inside of the plastic vapor barrier sheeting that we had stapled to the ceiling.

By 4:00 am we were all up with the lights on. The good news was that the roof was not leaking. The bad news was that the walls were leaking – and it was raining sideways.

Gale force winds were flowing from the south southwest. Unfortunately, this directly affected both the master bedroom and Joss’ bedroom, where all of us were sleeping. Rainwater was seeping in through the cracks between the walls and ceilings; between the walls, windows and doors; and through seams and splices in the walls themselves. Insulation panels on the walls were getting soaked, as was the floor inside.

Joss' bedroom floor

Joss slept through it, but Gail, Russell and Colleen ran around in damage-control mode. We stuffed plastic bags into cracks. We lined the floors with plastic sheeting and newspaper. We lined up storage bins, dishes, and food storage containers to catch the dripping water. By the time morning came, we were exhausted.

Gail uses the tools at hand to wedge plastic bags into the seams of the master bedroom wall (note the loose insulation under the plastic vapor barrier at the top of the photo)

On Saturday, we had to re-evaluate our plans. Gone were the ideas of sitting cozily inside while watching the rain outside. Our choices now were to spend the day watching the upper floor slowly flood, or to leave a day earlier than planned and come back another time. We opted for the latter.

We spent the morning trying to leave things in the best shape possible. Gail and Russell actually went outside and nailed plastic sheeting outside Joss’s wall so keep the rain from getting in. We could only do so much before the strong winds almost pushed us off of the balcony.

Gail tries to keep from getting blown off of the balcony as she nails plastic sheeting outside of Joss' bedroom

We finally left by mid-afternoon, and ended up driving home during the height of the storm.

The house as we left it: storage bins, dishes, and food storage containers catch the still-dripping water

We felt like we came home with our tails between our legs, but there is actually a positive side to this disaster. We are ultimately very fortunate to have discovered the wall leaks this early in the building process. We shudder to think what would have happened if we didn’t find out the walls leaked until the house had been dry-walled and finished.

On the other hand, we still shudder to think what we’ll have to do to clean up and repair this latest disaster during our next visit…

Colleen and Gail go for a stroll (Colleen was actually quite amused by the weekend's adventure)


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