During the days following the devastating storm of June 30 — remember the one with soaring temperatures, falling trees and flooding waters, which left millions of people in our communities without electric power including our home in Baltimore — the phone rang frequently as concerned friends called to see how our “little family” fared the storm. We were happy to report that though the phones stuttered briefly, we had electricity, the lights on and everyone safe, dry and cool. Yesterday was a bit of a different story.
A storm rumbles overhead, I block it out and work more quickly to complete my project — fearful that our home might lose power. Several minutes later, a particularly violent and loud clap of thunder makes me jump, yet another shakes the building, and my focus begins to wane. Unusual chatter, high and excited, sends a warning and draws me from my desk. We have learned here that when the rain drives hard onto our home’s North West facing windows they tend to spring leaks. Several of us arrive at the ground floor lobby at precisely the same time. As a unit, we face a five-foot wide shower of water falling from the ceiling and around the windows and doors, soaking the floors, carpet and ceiling tiles.
Everyone motivates. More people, a variety of trash bins, towels and blankets and even a wet floor sign appear. The trash bins large and small are used to collect the rapidly flowing water, the towels and blankets soak up the water coming in from around the windows and to dry the floor — in less than 10 minutes the situation though not very pretty is under control and safe. Then, Sr. Ophelia quietly mentions that the dining room on the first floor and the family room on the second floor are flooding too, we head to the elevators.
We find Sr. Marguerite in quiet command on the first floor — tables and chairs pushed to the walls, Sister is already wet vacuuming and volunteers and employees busy drying the floor. A barricade of wet linen grows at the bottom of the door to the balcony — a successful attempt to stem the flow of water. I peek out the window and see that the water on the balcony is six or seven inches deep. Sr. Marguerite pauses and quickly pointing to another window says, “Look out there.” So I do, and much to my surprise water is shooting up from the drain on the balcony’s floor, a foot-high geyser. Isn’t water supposed to go down the drain? Now I know the source of the flood in the lobby below. I run for my camera but the water stops before I return. The only thing left to photograph is a metal drain cover now lying on the balcony deck obviously pushed aside by the water and though we had the plumber snake the drains we still had to purchase additional wet vacuums to help during these storm deluges.
Someone mentions that the second floor family room is in a similar situation thou not nearly as severe and that Mother Mary Michael is making rounds to check each building. Everyone else checks windows and ceilings. Though there are small leaks around some of the windows, towels are sufficient to soak up the water. A nurse on the first floor places towels in the windows of three rooms; a Resident on the second floor places a towel on her window ledge to soak up water from a small leak. Sara, our summer service intern, cares for leaks around three doors to the chapel and ingeniously attaches a plastic flowerpot to the door that is catching water.
Just as everything seems to be settling down Sr. Christian tells me they have discovered an inch of water in the basement of St. Joseph’s Villa, our newest building. When I arrive towing a bin of towels, I find several Sisters and Mother Mary Michael already vacuuming up the water and drying the floors. A heavy drain cover is askew, obviously forced out of place by the extreme pressure of water coming up the drainpipe and into our home. Many hands make quick work and soon all is back to normal, the lights on, the rooms cool and we are all dry and safe. Blessed be God!