Lessons From a Flooding Incident

Jenny’s home was featured in the FHA’s 2021 virtual tour |  clip from video by Alan Blaustein  |  post by Larry Clinton and Jenny Silva

Jenny Silva of East Pier has filed the following report:

We are profoundly grateful for the immense support we received from our community when we had a significant flooding event on June 6, 2024. Neighbors quickly gathered to help us, and stayed very late in the night until things were stabilized. The support and assistance we received led to a far better outcome than if we tried to do it on our own. Plus, it was a lot less scary once we had some friendly faces surrounding us. We have often said the community is the best thing about being on the houseboats. This truly hit home Thursday night.

We knew there was a risk that we could have flooding from the work we are doing. Even so, when the incident happened, we were tired and stressed. We did not immediately seek outside assistance, nor did we adequately prepare any contingency plans in the event of a large leak. Had we rented a larger capacity electric pump while doing the work that leak would have been merely annoying rather than a near catastrophe.

Jenny has passed along several suggestions for dealing with emergencies such as hers.

(1) Call dock reps. “Don’t wait to reach out to neighbors for help! The second we realized that water was coming in faster than we could pump it out, we should have gotten help. Instead, we wasted a lot of time trying to figure out what to do on our own.”

(2) Call fire department. The fire department had several electric immersion pumps with fire hoses which worked well. However, adds Jenny: “We learned after the fact that the firemen had a long conversation with neighbors about not pumping out the water, and moving to a salvage operation. Thankfully, our neighbor dissuaded them from this plan. This was very surprising to learn, and it slowed down the response.”

(3) Get help from the FHA’s Disaster Response Trailer. The trailer on Gate 6 Road is well stocked with emergency supplies. In coming weeks, the Floating Times will list the current inventory of pumps, tools and other supplies, as well as a list of individuals who can access the trailer.

Other observations:

The electric pumps draw between 3 and 8 amps and it’s very easy to overload the circuits in the houseboat. We tripped two while attempting to pump things out. Also, in an emergency the electricity may either be out or need to be shut off due to shock risk. We have considered getting a generator for that possibility.

It is worth understanding the flow rate of the pumps and rate of water ingress to figure out whether there is adequate pump capacity. In our case at peak I believe the flow was about 2400GPH based on how fast the rear bay filled. Small consumer pumps like the Wayne WaterBUG Auto claim up to 1200 GPH but that depends on having full sized exit hoses not smaller diameter garden hoses. We had 5 pumps running at once initially and it was not fast enough to keep up. The Honda WB20XT claims 125GPM with 20’ head (how high it pumps the water to the exit port).

Jenny has also made a number of suggestions for the FHA, which will be taken into consideration over the coming weeks.