Monday, December 26, 2005

Homeless For the Holidays

Well, that's not entirely true. We still have a home. It's just that we can't access the part we usually sleep in.

Christmas Eve saw an army of Sea Scouts arrive with breathing filters and rubber gloves to help move everything out of the downstairs. I started to itemize the losses. The largest single monetary loss will end up being the cases of books contaminated by sewage and water. Over $5K wholesale so far. We're thinking Sam's cedar hope chest and the oak rocking chair we used to rock both children in can be cleaned. The master bedroom tub has whirlpool jets which will never be properly cleaned, and the water came up over the top, saturating the greenwall behind the surround. I can't imagine they'll be able to do much except tear it out and replace it. I can't even begin to comprehend the loss in clothing, bedding (Tyler lost his bed totally), books and stuffed animals. The appliances and electronics that were on the floor and are thus sitting in contaminated water include the washer & dryer, a phone, boom boxes, a game console (and several games). And of course, just random "stuff" - photos, papers, bits and pieces which are irreplaceable. The latch hook rug Sam made for Kayleigh just before she died was being used as a bedside throw rug. I hope we can have it cleaned.

The kids slept at a family friend's house while I finished a bottle of wine and crashed on the sofa here at home, Wiley at my side. I awoke at 5AM to the sound of two sewer "suck-trucks" at work just south of my house. They'd cordoned off everything south of about two houses down. Apparently, the sewer backup had also undermined a section of street which was totally sunk and will need to be repaired. In the morning, my brother, SIL, SIL's twin sister, stepmom and kids came to the house and we had a Christmas morning. Blueberry pancakes and tea, and the delight of my kids discovering what Santa brought them. Then we headed north to my mom's place for the larger family gathering. It was a good day. Finally got the kids to crash out on the floor at about midnight last night. They're still sawing logs.

So the bottom line is that Allstate doesn't cover this damage because it was a city liability, not something that originated on our property. Fortunately, an inspector with the city arrived first thing Saturday morning, with claim forms and business cards in hand. This is a serious, serious matter. To their credit, the city of Seattle is being very proactive in responding to the emergency and accepting full liability - it is far better to take care of these issues now, rather than wait for a class action lawsuit from everyone who was affected.

And how many were affected? That is unclear. We do know that rainfall choked the east/west sewer main at about 2AM Saturday morning, hit the dead end and came back up the north/south line under our street. Everyone on the west side of the street with a low drain of some kind got sewage flowing out of those drains. The woman nearest the main got over TWO FEET of sewage in her basement. And since this neighborhood includes a lot of smaller 1920s craftsman homes, you find a lot of them (ours included) have converted/finished basements for additional living space - and that will add up to a huge loss for the city. Especially since that living space is currently uninhabitable and the city is responsible for lodging all of these displaced people. Now, we're currently able to sleep upstairs on the floor - there was enough rainwater dilluting the sewage that there are no noxious fumes (and Wiley is very sensitive to such odd smells). We are also fortunate that the tear out process will begin today. We got a mitigation specialist who is familiar with sewer decontamination work, and will bill the city directly, so we will not be out of pocket for the majority of the rebuild and cleaning. I guess the bright side is, we get a whole new downstairs essentially. All the carpet and all the drywall up to a height of about 3 feet must be torn out, replaced, relaid, repainted, etc. It will probably be a month before we are back in our bedrooms.

I think this week we will do a lot of overnights with friends while the kids are still on break, and after that find a local B&B (there are really no hotels per se in West Seattle, save for a single Travelodge). I will be contacting the city adjuster and finding out exactly what they recommend, and what will be covered.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday. As if I didn't already have loads of perspective, this weekend gave me loads more. We're alive and surrounded by love from family and community. And we'll be okay.


LL Cool P said...

Jesus Christ... I'm so sorry! What a fucking nightmare. You guys are seriously due to win the lottery after the year you've had.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you and your family. I can't imagine how you are coping with all of this.

Abel said...

Ouch! Glad the city is working to fix it.