Prolonged rain causes immense damage

By Dan Agarkov
Published: March 2010

When she moved into her house, resident Jennifer Ma had no idea about the trouble it would cause her. After the recent rainfall, Ma’s backyard, driveway, and basement were flooded with over two feet of water, covering most of her car and leaving knee-high water in her basement.

“[The car] is totaled, Ma said, adding that the water in her basement destroyed household supplies and stored food and may have damaged her washer, dryer, and hot water tank. Ma praised the quick response of the city’s Public Works crew which came to pump water from her backyard across the street into the Charles River.

Photo By Alex Gershanov

“The city did a great job and it was a very quick rescue, Ma said, explaining that most of the water was gone from her backyard within three days.

Like Ma, many Newton residents struggled to deal with the nine inches of rain that soaked the city over three days, leaving flooded basements, closed roads, and a damaged MBTA line.

On Ma’s Quinobequin Road in Waban, rising water levels from the Charles River flooded the street. Water burst out of several manholes, creating small fountains in the middle of the road.

Mayor Setti Warren announced a state of emergency on March 15, allowing the city to apply for federal relief money. According to Warren, city offices received more than 700 calls from residences and businesses asking for assistance.

Junior Josh Horenstein and his family, who live in Waban, suffered severe flooding in their basement and backyard.

According to Horenstein, his backyard was completely covered by over a foot and a half of rainwater, and his basement had nine to 12 inches.

“Water started gushing out of the toilet, Horenstein said, explaining that his family had to remove everything from their basement as quickly as possible when floodwater began to overflow into the sewage main. The Horensteins used a wet vacuum and two sump pumps to get all the floodwater out of their basement.

“We had to buy a second sump pump to handle the amount of water, Horenstein said.

His family hired a company called ServPro, a storm response team that deals with natural disasters, to strip the carpets in his basement. The company also gave his family an estimate of damages, including damage to the walls and floorboards, and recommended that the floorboards be replaced because they could be unsafe. ServPro’s Storm Team estimated the damages at approximately $3000. According to Horenstein, his parents plan to apply to city and state officials for assistance in paying for the damage.

In Newton Center, Junior Luke Shanahan’s finished basement was flooded with over five inches of water. Like many Newton families, Shanahan’s family does not have flood insurance. This means that they will likely be paying for their repairs out-of-pocket.

“[The flooding] completely destroyed all the rugs and we had to rip them out, Shanahan said, adding that his family borrowed a pump to get rid of the water. Shanahan’s family cut out the lower ten inches of the wall because of water damage.

Nearby, the D line was shut down between Newton Highlands and Reservoir stations from flooding that washed out the ground from under the train tracks, leaving a sinkhole. Service was predicted to be knocked out for at least a week, but was repaired ahead of schedule on March 19. According to Chief Operating Officer of the Public Works Department Bob Rooney, the total repair cost of the MBTA line is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, including labor, materials, and a replacement fleet of busses that was used to shuttle passengers between the disrupted stations.

Twenty-six public buildings were impacted by the flooding, more than half of which were schools affected by leaks. The most significant damage was to City Hall, in which 20 people working in the basement were displaced. Flooring, carpeting and archived files were all damaged by flooding.

Head Custodian Dan Bianchi said that South has not had any significant damages from flooding, except for several minor leaks in the cafeteria and library. According to librarian Marnie Bolstad, several persistent leaks in the library classrooms left splattered stains across the walls and whiteboards. Custodians are working to fix the leaks.

Other flood stories include that of mathematics teacher Margery Waldron, who had a particularly difficult time getting to South from her home in Marlborough, due to flood-related road closures.

“It normally takes me about 45 minutes to get to South on an average day, she said. “Last Tuesday, however, traffic came to a halt.

Waldron described a chaotic scene of impassable streets, angry drivers, and frantic police officers trying to direct movement. The Sudbury River overflowed its banks and rain water accumulated to such a point that police were forced to close parts of Routes 117 and 20.

“From door to door, [the trip] was just about two hours, Waldron said.

New potholes formed on city roads as a result of the recent flooding, creating slalom courses for many drivers. According to Rooney, over $60,000 has been spent on repairing potholes arising from recent inclement weather. He encouraged concerned citizens to report serious potholes to City Hall.

Rooney said that a flood clinic was held on March 18 for anybody interested or concerned about the impact of the flooding. In addition, residents were encouraged to fill out an estimated loss report, detailing their private property losses.

According to Rooney, the clinic had two purposes: it gave officials an estimated cost of damages, and it allowed the Public Works Department and the Fire Department to answer questions about the process of remedying problems caused by flooding and about how the process could be improved in the future.

“Every homeowner has their own specific challenge and [the clinic] offered [homeowners] advice from experts to help with resolving their challenges, Rooney said, adding that over 200 people attended the clinic throughout the night.

Rooney explained that the city needs estimated costs to be over $4.7 million, in order to apply for state aid.

Though many residents suffered immense damage to their homes, they never withheld a lending hand from their neighbors. As soon as the rain ended, residents were out and helping their neighbors pump out their basements, driveways, and backyards. Within days, the floodwater was removed, and house repairs began.

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