Monday, June 20, 2011

Flash Flooding

It's been said that hindsight is 20/20.  In this case, I'm not sure I knew enough to be able to say that it was possible to have anything other than that!  The main reason I'm writing this blog entry is to help prevent someone from being electrocuted.

For those of you who have been to the Bluegrass Shack, you are probably wondering how we ended up with flooding.  We are not near a creek, though we are near the Kaskaskia River.  Not only is the river WAY downhill from where we are located, there is a levee there as well.  Even if the levee broke, there is little chance of our building being affected by it.  With the storms we had over the weekend, though, things were just right all over the place for flash flooding.  The road in front of the shop sits higher than our parking lot, and our building is not raised.  We have some drainage ditches and pipes set up to take the water away from the building.  There were strong winds that caused the rain to come very hard, very fast, and at an angle to the front of the shop.  This allowed the water to come off the road in sheets and fill up the drainage ditches.  That alone may not have caused the flooding, but with the rain coming in at an angle, it was forced in under the doors at the front of the shop. 

At first, the only thing I could think of was to get rid of the water, which was about an inch deep in both my teaching room and the workshop.  That's an area of about 40' x 12', separated into two rooms.  By the grace of God, Dennis just happened to come by so I wasn't cleaning up by myself.  He took the shop and I took my teaching room.  Part way into cleanup, I noticed my computer screen blinking.  As a matter of habit, I never leave power strips, surge protectors, or plug-ins of any kind on the floor.  (For me, it is more a matter of cleaning and keeping them out of the way of the vacuum cleaner.)  There had been a lot of lightening, so I initially thought the surge protector must have taken a hit.  Then the power went off to the outlets in my teaching room.  I went to the electric box to see if any of the circuits had tripped.  Everything was locked into the "on" position, so I just started going through the box turning every circuit off and then on.  The power to the outlets was restored, so Dennis and I got some fans going.  Then we both started smelling electricity.

Neither Dennis nor I know much about electricity.  There is an outlet in the front of my teaching room that is low to the ground. It didn't look like water had been in the outlet, though there was evidence of water creeping up the wall there.  I made a couple of phone calls and was informed I should turn off the circuit to the outlets.

We have several friends who are electricians, so I first contacted Rich.  He is only a block from the store.  Not long after that, Dan just happened to drop by.  He is also an electrician.  The two of them were working together to try to figure out what was going on.  The outlet in front was actually bone dry.  There was even dust inside the box.  The outlets all showed full power, though every time I tried to plug in my monitor, it would flash and a surge was visible every few seconds at regular intervals.  When I plugged the monitor into the entension cord that was run from an outlet in the main showroom, it worked fine.

Without going into more details, it was eventually determined that there is a junction box in the concrete floor in my teaching room that is apparently waterlogged.  It's not visible because it is below the floor.  Only the three outlets in my room are affected by this junction box.  When the floor was covered with water, I was unknowingly standing and working in a live electrical field.  The type of problem that was occurring probably would not have killed me, but it was, excuse the pun, quite a shock to find out about this!

The best way for someone to avoid getting shocked from flood waters of any kind, is to turn off the circuits to the room(s) that are affected by water until you have removed all the water.  Wear rubber soled shoes.  As far as knowing anything else, I can't really answer that.  If things don't work right, if you smell electricity, if the circuit or outlets or lights don't work correctly, turn off the circuits and call an electrician.

1 comment:

Denise said...

oh no! I am so glad everyone was okay and that you had people there to help. How scary to find out about that outlet!