On Wednesday night, Kristine Grill drifted off to the babble of running water.
“It sounded like a little river,” she said.
The St. Paul resident wasn’t camping. She was lying in bed in her 100-year-old Highland Park home, listening to water stream into her basement below. After digging a trench in her yard Thursday and deploying sandbags, fans and dehumidifiers, she was working to stay positive: “Does this mean it’s finally spring?”
This week’s rainfall and above-freezing temperatures have melted much of the snowpack in the metro area. The 16 inches of snow piled up Tuesday morning at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport had shrunk to 5 inches just two days later.
But that water has to go somewhere, and for many homeowners that’s meant flooded basements. After 27 years in the business, Jeff Rudek with First Response Restoration said this year ranks as one of the worst he’s seen for water-damaged homes in the Twin Cities.
“And it doesn’t discriminate,” he said. “I’ve got leaks at my house, too.”
Rudek is visiting about 50 to 60 homes per day and scheduling repairs at least three days out. Hundreds more homeowners are calling him at all hours of the day and night.
“This year has been exceptional for these problems,” he said. “We’ve had the perfect storm of conditions.”
While there’s a chance for precipitation on Sunday, the metro area isn’t likely to see much more rain or snow in the next week. But sunny skies and temperatures reaching into the upper 40s by Tuesday could result in a rapid melt.
“If we get warmer than normal temperatures like what we are looking at next week, that could accelerate [melting] and be a concern,” said Tyler Hasenstein, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.
For those already dealing with a soggy basement, options include the usual suspects: wet vacuums, sump pumps, dehumidifiers and fans.
Homeowners should shovel snow away from their foundation and check their gutters and downspouts to ensure water has a clear path to flow away from the house, said Amanda Welliver, marketing and communications coordinator for NeighborWorks Home Partners.
“You can add tubing to extend your gutter and get water further away from your home,” Welliver said. “Just make sure you’re not just sending it right into your neighbor’s basement.”
More long-term and preventive solutions include landscaping and grading, or hiring a company to waterproof your home. While many homeowners may be noticing leaks for the first time this year, Welliver said, they shouldn’t assume this year is an anomaly.
“While it might seem like this is an unusual season, we don’t know what next winter will look like,” she said. “This could be a new normal, and people should be prepared.”
February and March are usually slow months for Welna Hardware in the Seward neighborhood of south Minneapolis, but not this year. Store manager Ben Johnson said that between ice dams and flooding, there’s been a steady stream of customers.
About half the people in the store this week were complaining about leaks or flooding, he said. One man bought a tarp to direct water away from his home; others purchased rubber door bottoms to keep pooled water from seeping inside. On Thursday morning, the store sold out of sandbags.
“We’ve also sold a lot of squeegees and mops and fans,” he said. “It’s been kind of tough to keep up with demand.”
The way Grill sees it, mopping up a flooded basement is just further proof that this winter has been especially brutal. She plans to waterproof her house this year and maybe add a rain garden in her yard. For now, she’ll keep using sandbags to direct the water toward her sump pump and hope that her trench works.
“I essentially have a moat around my house now. It’s all just ridiculous,” she said.
Then, cautiously, she added: “It has to end at some point, right?”