Protect Your House from Flooding in Herkimer Village! Fire Hydrant Test Misses the Mark

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by Linda Kaidan

Do you have protection against basement flooding? “IDK” is not a good answer!

9/26/23 My foot above a clooged drain on Herkimer's Pleasant Avenue following today's fire hydrant test. I clered this drain. The rest remained clooged.
9/26/23 My foot above a clogged drain on Herkimer’s Pleasant Avenue following today’s fire hydrant test. I cleared this drain. The rest remained clogged.

Flood insurance is not cheap and basement insurance is limited. Yet most basements have expensive infrastructure like one or more electrical boxes, furnaces, water lines, and heating systems. If you have ever hired a contractor, you might realize that repairing or replacing some or all of these systems is very costly.

The least expensive protection is to prevent your basement from flooding in the first place.

One of the major factors in flood prevention is periodically clearing the storm drains that move water from streets into an effective municipal drainage system.

Is this more difficult than ever before? Sadly, the answer is yes, because more rain is falling than ever before. We can handle this increase in rain by having excellent storm drains that move the water away from buildings and control the flow into conduits that can carry it to reservoirs or into waterways that can handle the flow. But this requires constant vigilance on the part of residents and government.

What is your local government doing about this?

In Herkimer, NY a water hydrant test was conducted this morning on our street. I had forgotten all about it. I think it was around 9:30 AM 9/26/23 when I realized our street was streaming with water from Protection Ave to 328 Pleasant, halfway down  Pleasant Avenue, where the only truly clear storm drain gurgled happily, indicating the system worked well at this specific location. One reason it functioned adequately was because I had just cleared it of the fallen leaves that had accumulated on the grating at street level.

Today’s test showed that a small amount of intentional runoff from a fire hydrant caused backup of all drains except for the at 326 Pleasant Ave. The photo above shows me putting my foot in it. Well worth the effort :)!

It was sunny this morning as big puddles collected the length of the street. The single storm drain across from the biggest puddle at 326 was functional. It gurgled happily, removing flood water danger from this area.

Annual fire hydrant testing is often a legal requirement. And a fine opportunity to observe the condition of a street’s drainage. Herkimer’s the only place we’ve ever lived where this test wasn’t conducted by uniformed fire department personnel, but rather by what appeared to have been a contractor, who moved along briskly, splashing unconcerned through the standing water.

Why should you care? Stormwater control is key to preventing property damage from floods. Wet basements support mold, and mildew and destroy infrastructure. In many cases, damage to basements is not covered by insurance. Also, the documented failure of a municipality to remedy this threat leaves it open to a liability suit by homeowners and flood insurers in the event of negligence preceding a loss. (A blog post, for example, is legally admissible documentation.)

Living in your cozy village is great but it does not protect you from flood damage. Whether you’re a homeowner, renter, or both, you can lose valuable assets if stormwater drainage isn’t well-managed by your municipality.

Because of climate change, there is a vast increase in unpredictable flash floods caused by rainfall. In several states, people have died when driving flooded streets.

A cautionary tale

In not so-far away Vermont, July 2023 floods damaged more than 4,000 homes and 800 businesses. NOAA reported rivers rising 20 feet above normal. (Below image by NOAA.) reported the following damages resulting from July 2023 flooding:

“We all know people whose lives were turned upside down. Homes washed away. Bridges and roads were decimated. The costs for a small state were immense – about $63 million in insurance claims, $153 million in state and local costs, and a staggering $603 million in federal outlays – all from one storm.”