By JERRY WOLFFE
Even though Dr. Barry Schoenbart’s Oak Park home suffered an estimated $20,000 in damage from flooding, he can breathe a sigh of relief because his family is OK, but it was an experience that will not be easily forgotten.
The basements of some of the K-Buildings at MORC’s Clinton Township had flooding and staffers had to not work in the buildings. The damage, however, could have been more severe it not for the quick action in the middle of the night by Maintenance Supervisor Bob McKinnon and his crew, Kevin Cox and Joel DeFalco.
On Monday evening, Aug. 11, the skies opened up dumping more than five inches of rain in most of Oakland and Macomb counties, causing unprecedented flooding of homes, streets and expressways.
Schoenbart, MORC’s Director of Healthcare Informatics, lives in Oak Park.
He and his family were having dinner and one of his daughters noticed a spot on the kitchen ceiling. “She asked if it was always there and I said ‘no.’ it must be water leaking.”
Shortly thereafter, Schoenbart heard the air condition motor slow down in the basement, then stop and just hum, he said. He found several inches of water in the mostly finished basement.
“I went back upstairs and told my wife Cindy we’ve got to move,” he said, half in jest. “It’s going to be much easier” than trying to repair all the damage, he added.
Schoenbart, his wife, daughters Rachel, 27, Jennifer, 24, and Sarah 22, and Rachel’s boyfriend Rob started to clean up the mess. Jennifer and Sarah still live at home where the family has resided for 22 years.
The storm water -- not sewage -- damaged carpeting, paneling, two couches, a chair, radio and the dropped ceiling, Schoenbart said.
“We lost a lot of memorabilia,” he said. Luckily, he purchased a rider on his home insurance policy that covered water/sewer damage.
The spot in the kitchen ceiling spread with the ceiling falling down a few hours after the rains started. The attic insulation and roof will have to be replaced.
A restoration company from Canton, Ohio, arrived at the home on Borgman on Thursday, or three days after the initial flooding, and stayed until Sunday, he said.
Between the Schoenbart family and restoration firm, wet items were hauled out of the basement. The bottom four feet of paneling in the basement had to be cut away.
Eight blowers and two dehumidifiers were put in the basement and left on for three days to dry the area out. “By Sunday, humidity was measured in the basement beams and the air and it was dry enough to turn off the equipment,” Schoenbart said.
The water heater was relit and the circuit board of the furnace had to be replaced at a cost of $250.
Within several days the home was cleaned. It’s not determined whether the basement will be refinished.
“I felt sad to see all the things that were so familiar in our house sitting outside on the curb” because they were destroyed in the floor, Schoenbart said. “It also makes me think about how tenuous life is and how close to the edge we live between a productive life and disaster.”
Cox of the maintenance department picked up McKinnon at home because 19 Mile Road and all the parking lots at MORC’s Clinton office were flooded.
There were 5.5-feet of water in the basement of K3 and 4-feet in K-5. The other four buildings had a “small amount,” McKinnon said.
A major disaster to the main building was averted, he said, because a drainage ditch was dug along the East end of the property last year which prevented water from going into the main office structure.
About 7 p.m. on Aug. 11, alarms on the sump pump in K4 went off and McKinnon was called by Guardian Alarm. He called Cox. Cox went to the scene and then called McKinnon and said: “You better get in here. All of our parking lots are lakes and K3 is flooded and the transformer went out.”
The men kept the pumps going and it stopped raining 90 minutes after McKinnon was notified by Guardian, averting a worse situation.
“Joel (DeFalco) stayed until 3 a.m. gassing up the pumps to keep the water down. Kevin came back at 3 a.m. to relieve Joel and I came back at 5:30 a.m. and by that time the water had receded in the parking lots, but the (K) basement was full of water.”
Power Plus, a high voltage electric company was summoned, to “help us pump out and work on the K3 transformer before it blew. Power Plus dried out transformers in K1, K3, and K5,” McKinnon said.
K1 and K2 transformers were back on line by Wednesday night and by Friday all units were up and running, McKinnon said.
However, MORC staff assigned to the K units didn’t report to the buildings after the rains fell. They worked from home, on the road on were housed in the main Clinton office or the office in Auburn Hills.
“Fortunately, the transformers weren’t significantly damaged,” McKinnon said. The water eventually was pumped out of the buildings.
“Joel and Kevin did a great job,” McKinnon said.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263-8950.