Yesterday the seemingly eternal sub-zero cold snap broke here in Anchorage. As I drove home from class last night , I marveled at the temperature reading my Jeep showed on the dashboard: 38 degrees F.
I entered the B&B, walked down the stairs to my room on the ground floor and heard something unusual. It sounded like a waterfall. I thought, "Wow, the warmer temps melted all that snow on the roof...that's some big runoff." I changed into my jammies and went into the kitchen to grab something to eat. That water was loud. I mean really loud. I walked toward the corner of the living area, from whence the sound was coming, and suddenly I was standing in a puddle of very cold water. "This isn't good", I thought. The floors in that room are beautiful glossy hardwood. Exploring the deck just outside the living area wall I saw no water cascading from anywhere above. I came back inside and started pushing furniture toward the center of the room and away from the expanding puddle. Once I had saved several nice pieces, I raced upstairs and called the B&B owner's daughter who lives here in Anchorage (the owner is in Las Vegas - she isn't crazy enough to live here during the winter). The daughter, Martie, said that she and her husband would be over to assess the situation after they had dinner.
I was really worried about that hardwood floor. Collecting bath towels from each of the five suites upstairs I began sopping up water. I got close to the source and noted that it appeared to be coming up from the floor itself. Very shortly I was out of towels and thought to look in the sauna the owner uses as storage. There I struck pay dirt. She had visited J.C. Penney at some point and there were maybe 40 new towels in there. More sopping.
Martie showed up about an hour later with her husband Steve, who is (thank God) a plumber. I showed them the pond and piles of soaked towels in the living area. Steve went to work trying to figure out what in the world was going on while Martie and I continued sopping and mopping.
All kinds of interesting things happen when you live in Alaska. Last year my husband neglected to "winterize" our motor home and the water that was in the pipes when we parked it in the driveway froze. When spring came, they broke, and leaked. It was nasty. This year the owner of this B&B forgot to shut off the valve that controls an obscure pipe that runs from the bathroom of a second floor suite to the back of the house and ends in a spigot before she left for the winter. Sometime before I got home last night, the ice that had accumulated in that pipe thawed enough, and the pipe burst. The valve was open, the water was running - and it was running down the inside of the wall and across the ceiling of the suite on the other side of the living area from my suite.
Steve shut the valve and the water stopped running. Even so, there were gallons of it soaking the insulation in the ceiling of that other room. We watched in horror over the span of about three hours as large pregnant looking bubbles formed on the ceiling and walls in there. We poked at them with knives and water poured out of them, further soaking the carpet.
I've washed and dried all the towels (had to put them on a spin cycle first - they were very heavy). Six loads. There are three men from the disaster crew in the other bedroom now, at 1 am (24 hours after the flood). They have what one of them called a "shop vac on steroids", dropcloths, hatchets and other tools. They're tearing the ceiling out in there and trying to salvage the carpet. They seem like very good guys, so I may just go to sleep while they're still here (they'll probably still be here when I wake up, for that matter).
I've spoken with the owner several times today. Each time she has told me how very glad she is that I am here, and that she can only imagine what would have happened had the pipe broken, say, on a weekend while I was home in Kenai. The fellow in the other room with the hatchet told me that we'd have had two to three feet of water down here if that pipe had gushed for a couple of days.
When I lived in California, I ran from forest fires. Now I have survived a flood. From this point forward, I'll be scanning the horizon waiting for and watching for the locusts.