Pals' know-how saved my home

Paul V. Arnold, Reliable Plant

I owe my livelihood to those involved in engineering and the skilled trades, for they are the readers of my magazine, Reliable Plant. But today, I also owe my house to them.

From June 5-11, nearly 14 inches of rain fell on my hometown of Fort Atkinson, Wis., forcing the Rock River to swell from its normal depth of 4 feet. I live one-third of a mile from the river, but on June 10, the storm drains on our street began to back up and overflow. On June 11, the river surpassed the 8-foot mark and the field behind my house became a large puddle. On June 12, the river, now 8.5 feet deep, spilled over its banks. I and my family were facing a disaster.

Over the next nine days, the river depth rose to nearly 11 feet, and the street and field that served as the boundaries of my property were 30 inches deep with water. My house was an island. Exit to our cars down the road required boots, chest-waders or a canoe.

During this flood, homes and businesses in Fort Atkinson were destroyed. Many of my friends lost possessions as water swamped their basements and garages.

My family incurred many thousands of dollars in losses to outside property. But, my home was still standing and, inside, was free of flood water. I owe it all to my friends.

I am a journalist. My expertise is in writing and editing and conducting interviews. My professional training did not include pump system reconfigurization and optimization; plumbing, water theory and hydrodynamics; land planning through laser leveling and alignment; and the application of adhesives and sealants to create a water-resistant bond between wood and concrete. Thank God I have friends with these skills. I owe the health and stability of my home to:

Mark Macejkovic: My across-the-street neighbor is a maintenance technician at Metal Container Corporation, an Anheuser-Busch subsidiary. Mark helped me and several neighbors reconfigure our sump pump systems to flow into the back field instead of the overcapacitized storm sewers. At all hours of the day and night, he provided insight on maintaining and troubleshooting our interior sump and exterior pump/motor systems and keeping them reliable. With his guidance, they ran reliably 24 hours a day.

Mike Topel: My next-door neighbor is the owner of a small manufacturing firm in Jefferson, Wis., called T & S Enterprises. Running a small business means plenty of hands-on work on the plant floor. This background was instrumental as he and his young son, Sean, helped me construct the PVC pipeline that transported sump pump water from my basement to the back field.

Vince Kent: This long-time pal is the president of Abendroth Water Conditioning in Fort Atkinson. A master plumber and water expert, he provided proactive game plans to keep me a step ahead of the city's mounting sanitary and sewage system problems. He also brought in a 270-gallon-per-minute pump and industrial hoses to keep rising groundwater away from a basement window.

Mike Jaeger: My neighbor down the block owns a small construction company. He incorporated an innovative bonding solution to seal up a basement window that was dangerously close to taking on water.

Pete Weston: My buddy is an architect with a background in engineering and all things mechanical. Early in the crisis, he used laser-leveling equipment to mark where the projected high-water line would be around my property. We built sandbag walls (more than 1,200 bags) based on his calculations and data. Pete also had an inside line to the city's engineers. This provided timely news.

To these handy people, and many, many others, I give you my deepest thanks.

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