- Earlier this year, my family moved from an apartment in New York to a house in New Jersey.
- Four days later, we received a flash flood warning from Hurricane Ida. Then our basement was under water.
- The flood has been a clear message to me: unless we take action on the climate, it will only happen more.
We moved into our new home in a lovely New Jersey block on the last Sunday in August. The little boy next door walked halfway, introduced himself to my 4 year old son, and the two left for the yard, quick friends. That night we ordered pizza and ate it on the floor as we still had no dining furniture.
We had moved from a 750 square foot apartment in Brooklyn, where we had passed the pandemic on top of each other. Now we had about three times the space, spread over three levels. There were a lot of satisfied smiles that night.
Four days later, on September 1, our phones sounded a tornado alert as the remnants of Hurricane Ida moved north. What happened next made me realize that unless we do something about climate change, the damage to my home – and many other communities – will only get worse.
When we received the tornado alert, my parents, who had experienced a few devastating tornadoes in recent years at their Tennessee home, urged us to go to our basement and wait a while. The rain turned torrential, the flash flood warnings came in, and I cleared a drain in our backyard that the vendors in our house had warned us about. It fills with leaves, they said, and you have to keep it clear in a thunderstorm or it will recede.
Several inches of water had already accumulated around her, and I felt my efforts were in vain. I went back inside for a respite.
A few minutes later, I heard my partner cry out for help. Water was now flowing under and around the sides of the door leading to our utility room from the backyard. An inch of water had accumulated in our storage room and laundry room, and it was now heading through the door to the finished family room. I sent my parents upstairs with our son.
My partner and I spent most of the night doing damage control. We cleaned the exterior sewers from the wreckage that was piling up on top, wearing rubber boots in the mud swirling above them from the lightning constantly flashing above. We tried to direct most of the flow to our garage with brooms so it didn’t spill sideways into the family room. We watched our sump pump gurgling miserably, working hard but completely overwhelmed.
The next day we had a three foot high sea leash against our back door. We felt lucky that the water pressure did not break the door, which happened in our municipal library.
We installed a dehydrator and all of our fans in the basement, first in the unfinished space, then in the finished family room.
But the vinyl floor in the family room looked wrinkled and spongy, even after it dried on the surface and we cleaned it thoroughly. We reassembled the vinyl to discover a soaked sub-floor throughout the family room.
We have filed an insurance claim. An assessor came; we got money after he pointed a hygrometer at the spot in the sub-floor that kept getting wet. He arrived 100%. The contractors came in and removed the sub-floor and made a gap in the interior wall to determine how the water was getting in.
The good news: the foundation was not cracked, nor the cement under the sub-floor. We had detected our problem before it compromised the structural integrity of the house.
The bad news: We needed a whole new floor. The wall was also damaged; we removed soaked and crumbled plasterboard from its newly exposed insides. The solution was seen as a metal plate installed at the base of the wall and sealed in concrete that effectively waterproofed our family room.
When you buy a home, especially if you’re coming from a full-service rental property in New York City, you understand that no one will put your recycling for you. No one uses electricians, plumbers or exterminators on your behalf. You are responsible now, for better or for worse.
But little has prepared us for the reality of the “worst”: a tropical storm dumping record rains on New Jersey four days after we moved in.
We are luckier than many. At least 50 people in the northeast have died; 25 were in New Jersey, one in our city. When we drove past the storm, the piles of furniture, toys, rugs and debris we saw outside the houses made our soaked pile of moving boxes from our basement pale in comparison – our only real victim. Entire lives have been put on the sidewalks, while our life here was just beginning.
The total economic impact of Hurricane Ida in the United States is estimated at $ 95 billion, or half of 1% of the country’s gross domestic product. Damage to infrastructure in the northeastern states alone was about $ 25 billion.
It’s a dizzying feeling to realize that my home that I’ve owned for just two months is part of that total. And it’s not going to end there. I can do repairs, and I am fortunate to have secured the insurance money that will help me with that.
But my Geico is not going to cover climate change. On November 15, President Biden enacted a $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that recognizes climate change is here to stay and allocates billions to support vulnerable communities and strengthen the electricity grid.
According to Flood Factor, a website created by the First Street Foundation to list growing flood threats nationwide and to show that the federal government has downplayed these threats, my county and state are at ever increasing risk of flooding. flood. We’re going to have to do more than install metal plates in our walls and redo our floors. Consume less, walk more, drive hybrids, invest in green spaces and clean technologies.
Was my home purchase worth it? Yes. I win more with my shot than I lost this time. I make changes to minimize future losses.
But it comes with the realization that there will be future losses, and we’re all going to have to do something about it.