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March 10, 2017

Busted Pipe Threatens to Sink my Studio!

The sun had not even come up yet.  I first heard the cat stepping lightly through the bedroom door to find his usual hiding spot.  I drifted back to sleep only to be woken up again half an hour later to the sound of rain.  I suddenly became startled.

"What is that?" I asked into the darkness.  The sound of water was on the wrong side of the bed, coming from the hallway instead of the window.  I raised up to the edge of the bed to see slightly out of the crack in the door, the tiny reflections of the living room light bouncing off a steady stream of what looked like water falling right in front of my bedroom door.

Let me just say here, that you should get renters insurance.  Luckily I did not need it this time, but I very well could have.   There's no going back in time to do what you should've done that would've saved you from a nightmare.  There are often no signs that something is wrong until it happens.  Until you wake up in the middle of the night to what you think is rain.  Or until you come home from a weekend visit and your house is flooded.

I keep thinking how lucky we were that we were home.  We hadn't finished unpacking every box, or found a home for every single thing yet, so there is a lot of stuff on the floor in various corners and under tables (especially my studio table!)  In moments of shock there is an uncontrollable frozen stare of disbelief as you wonder if you're actually having a nightmare, or if what is happening will just stop.  It didn't.

I must've stared at the ceiling not knowing what to do for what seemed like 30 minutes.  I saw the water start to travel from the hallway to the living room, going past my TV stand, my couch, to the front door.  I yelled for my partner to find towels, and I grabbed what few I saw and threw them to the floor.

"Oh my God, oh my God," I couldn't help but utter every time I looked up at this unstoppable waterfall of red water.  It was RED! At first I thought it must be coolant, and that it must go to the A/C unit, and that whatever tank was up there would run out soon, but it just kept coming.   I ran to the kitchen where the water seemed to be avoiding, to think, which seemed so hard to do  right now.  I knew I had to reach some emergency line for my complex, I had heard one before when we had other issues in our previous apartment.  I listened to all the options, nothing about dialing this or that number for an emergency.  How can there NOT be an emergency line?!  I called again to listen to the options again.  I chose an option. Not helpful.  I called again, chose another option, not helpful.

I was running out of options with the office number, nothing sounded like it was for emergencies, leave a message here or there.  "I don't want to leave a message! UGH!"  I yelled into the phone.  I looked at the floor and saw a large pot, I grabbed it and placed under one heavy leak.   It splashed so much it seemed to do little to contain the growing lake in my living room.  I went back and grabbed the mop bucket, and my partner caught on and ingeniously used a storage tub we had laying nearby.   This was big and deep, and had to help.  Even still, the water seemed to fill it up so fast, it wouldn't last long, and the color just got deeper as if warning us of impending doom.  I grabbed my wet shoes, car keys, and headed for the leasing office.  Surely there was an emergency number there.  On my way I stopped and woke up the downstairs neighbors to warn them.  From afar I saw the windows in the office were lit and I had a tiny hope someone just came to work super early.

When I got there, I knocked.  Nothing. I peered in and saw the backdoor was wide open!  I ran around to the back of the building and was inside.  Loud music was playing, and a bag of fast food was on the communal kitchen counter.  "Hello?" I yelled.  Nothing.  I ran to each office, to the fitness room under construction, to the bathroom. Nothing.  This is unreal, obviously someone was here.  I ran back outside to see if they had left to come back quickly.  No one in sight.  I ran back to the front to search for a number.

NOTICE: Blah blah blah, Electric, Gas, Water ###-####!!   I dialed and went through the options, in case of emergency dial 311.  I've surely heard that before, but I always learn something new about what it can do.  I dialed, let the dispatch know I had a water emergency, and I was connected.  I told the operator I had a busted pipe and the water was filling up my apartment.  She asked if I had called the landlord.  No! I can't reach them?!  She can't do anything without the permission of the landlord. Thanks?! *click*  NOT HELPFUL!  I would think the landlord would want his property to kept from damage, and he wouldn't need to give permission to stop an emergency from getting worse.  But that's just me.

I jumped back in the car defeated, and not knowing if the situation was worse, so I had to go back and help.  My partner was steady taking out bucket loads from the large tub to pour down the drain.  I
can't believe this is happening, and I can't do anything to stop it, and there's no help.  I know my property owners have other properties, I call them to see if their messages are more helpful, it's just past 6:30am, so I know they're not open.  Finally in case of emergency call 911 it said for help with emergencies of any kind.   I called told them my problem, and they connected me with the Fire Dept, I gave them my info and they said they'd try to come out and shut off the water.  I decided to keep trying the options on my leasing office to see if I could get through somehow or missed something.  I went ahead and left a voicemail, it asked for maintenance, and I tried to calmly state what was happening.  I then logged on and filled out a work order with "EMERGENCY" in the subject.  I then sent an email to the office through the website with "EMERGENCY" again.  My friend and neighbor left some messages too, more on those later...

When I finally heard a vehicle I ran outside to flag them down.  It appeared they'd gone too far and were a couple buildings behind.  I led them to my building and explained what was happening.  They stopped me.  "We're here for help with an invalid." Ok I apologized and let them get back.  They said they'd come by when they were done to see what they could do.  I turned and defeated again began to walk back to my apartment, when I heard sirens.   I ran to the front of the building and saw red and blue lights reflecting off other cars in the distance.  OK! Here we go,  I waited for them to get closer when the first guys I spoke with, came up behind me and asked to see what the problem I had called for was.  I led them upstairs and let them see what they could do.  They asked I had called maintenance and I said I hadn't been able to get through.

They talked among each other and then left to go look for a shutoff valve.  They mentioned this happened in another apartment and were unable to find one there.  As they went to go look, another was told to go get a tool from the truck.  All the while my partner is bucketing water one after another.  A guy walks in a few minutes later with what looks like a giant fireplace poker spear thing.  He waits for orders.  I go check my phone, and see my messages were received by maintenance and someone is on their way.  I go and tell one of the firefighters.  Just then the other group comes back in saying there's no valve to be seen, and that they think its in the ceiling with the pipe.  They debate whether or not to move forward, they mention maintenance is on the way.   It is decided that they'll try to get to it since maintenance may not make it in time, and the ceiling is already damaged and would need to be replaced anyway.


One swift poke and the ceiling easily tears and water pours out.  Just then a guy comes in the front door wearing a headlamp and carrying a toolbelt.  He worms his way through all the men standing in my living room in a puddle of water.  He stops the guy with the poker.  He unscrews the A/C panel, borrows the firefighters' ladder, and reaches up into the void and the water slowly stops.  I felt a wave of relief,  I think my body was unaware that it would ever stop, or that the silence would be so sweet.  It seemed to be over and my panic began to subside.  It felt like forever.   The firefighters exchanged info with maintenance about what was happening and why was the water red!?  Maintenance confirmed it was water and coolant that supplied the A/C units throughout the building.  I thanked them as they left.  Maintenance apologized and informed me of the next steps and that they would be back.

The house was quiet, I was exhausted and sleepy,  with wet feet.  It was just about 7:15am.  I felt I had been in crisis mode for so long I was about to pass out, or cry, or both.  I went to my friends in the next building to eat something and calm down for a bit.  He said the walls in his building shook like an earthquake because of everyone's pipes draining into my apartment!  He was calling maintenance as well while it was all going down.  He was screaming in the phone, "1101 is going down like the Titanic, HELP!!!" and "Blood is raining and pouring down the walls next door!"  LOL!

We ate, cleaned up, and went back to help the wetvac person, and then passed out after the floor dried.  A dry floor is nice.  Thankfully I only had a few supplies get damaged, some old clothes, and boxes.  Even though the floor looked covered in water, it didn't manage to reach the walls, and most of my stuff is up against them so it was all dry!  I was so relieved.  All the towels and some wet blankets got laid out on the balcony.

Oh yeah and my poor kitty got so scared during it all that he peed on the couch while screaming!  But I can't be mad.  I was the same. 

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