Let me tell you, living in Canada is not all about playing with white stuff or feeling like the incredible hulk as you add a 5th layer of clothing.
Southern Ontario was hit this week with a major ice storm, and I was reminded how foreign winter phenomena’s are to many people.
An ice storm consists of freezing rain. This is not hail, but instead it’s rain that falls at or just below zero degrees. As it falls it becomes supercooled, which helps it freeze on impact with roads, trees, cars, and powerlines.
Ice storms are much less frequent than the typical snow storm, but have a tendency to wreak havoc. Since the freezing rain causes ice to form on the trees and powerlines, it adds a considerable amount of weight, so it’s common for tree branches to come down on powerlines and cause power outages.
We got a call at 10pm, “The back up generator hasn’t kicked in, the basement is starting to flood”.
When the power goes out in the country, there’s one main issue … so let me introduce you to a sump pump.
A sump pump is probably the most important machine to operate at all times in a rural property. You will generally find a sump pump submerged in a basement, particularly in townships which have a high water table level. It pumps as needed to remove water from the basement drainage system to avoid overflowing and flooding.
When the power goes out in the country, the sump pump stops working.
When your back-up generator doesn’t kick in… any guesses? Yep, your right. The basement starts flooding, and during a snow melt and/or heavy rain, it doesn’t take long.
We asked, “How much water?”
“I’m treading in water, and it’s only been five minutes.”
“Really?” (Or perhaps some other words to express surprise and immediate concern.) “We’ll be there as soon as we can.”
When we arrived at the property, the water level on the lower half of our basement was now a solid 4 inches underwater. Most things in this room sit on crates to avoid too much damage in this exact situation. However, we probably had only an inch or so before it would move into the higher (and finished) half of our basement, which was full of belongings.
Outside with torches we checked the generator. Maybe the battery was dead, causing it not to start? Well, there was only one way to find out. After finding the manual override button, this was the moment of truth. Would everything be lost in the basement, or would we avoid this by the narrowest of margins?
As we held down the button, it tried to start. It kept trying to start, and a few seconds later it turned over. The sump pump came to life and the water started receding immediately.
A very close call. Phew!
It was a beautiful storm.
There’s two sides to every storm.