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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Notes from the Flood, Part 1

Notes from the Flood, Part 1 (2017-02-26) Around 4:15 this morning, our building’s fire alarm went off.

We didn’t know it then but, four floors above us, a sprinkler-head in an unoccupied apartment had failed. The sprinkler was full on, spewing as much water as its 120psi fire main could deliver.

For reference, 120 PSI --- 8.2 bar; 827 KPa --- is between four and eight times the standard US household water pressure. We’re talking a *lot* of water.

But again, that was unknown to anyone, at the time.

The building manager and the fire department responded to the alarm. With no actual fire detected, they turned off the strobes and buzzers and reset the system.

But a software reset doesn’t cure a hardware failure: water continued to pour into the unoccupied apartment.

A short while later, the ongoing heavy drain on the fire system triggered a second alarm.

By then, the building manager was getting panicked calls from apartments below the one with the sprinkler problem; water was starting to cascade down the stack.

After about 15 minutes --- 15 minutes of full-on 120 PSI flooding from a malfunctioning fire sprinkler --- they finally disabled and depressurized the fire system.

But then, four stories below the original problem, we started to hear small taps and noises in the bedroom ceiling. At first I thought: Mice. And: Shit.

Nope. It was the first droplets of a growing flood.

We spent the first few frantic hours moving clothes around, bagging things, covering others in plastic --- because we had no idea how bad the flooding might get.

The dripping/flowing water began subsiding in a hour or so, and finally stopped after about 4 hours. There’s still seepage coming out from the flooded walls.

Our place is in disarray --- chaos, really --- but our stuff is OK. So far, none of our possessions appears to be harmed. The damage is all to the apartment itself.

The building management has been pretty good so far. Fire/Flood restoration units were here by 7AM, and they’re now ripping sodden carpets out of the floors above us. As I write this, heavy bundles of wet carpet are hitting the sidewalk outside my window every few minutes.

They’re working down the stack, top to bottom, which makes sense. They’ll get to our apartment in a few hours. They’ll vacuum the standing water, remove the saturated carpet, set up industrial dehumidifiers and blowers, and open up several suspect walls. At least one section of ceiling has to come down. The maintenance guy said it’d take “maybe a week” for the whole process, because five apartments are having to be done at the same time --- and ours actually has the least amount of damage.

Once we see what they do today, and how much de/reconstruction is needed, we’ll decide where to spend the rest of the week.

For the moment, we’re camping in our second bedroom, which is dry. I'm killing time, waiting for the workmen to arrive. Dolly's snoozing --- it was a *very* short night.

Going forward, we have the option of moving to a nearby midrange chain motel, at the building owner’s expense. Our own insurance also has a “loss of use” clause, which may apply.

There are other complications, such as what to do with the cat while all this goes on.

But, stay or go, it’s shaping up to be quite a week!