There Is Risk

Every time it’s supposed to snow or dip below freezing, these big red warning signs appear on sidewalks next to local businesses and government offices. THERE IS RISK. YOU MUST USE CAUTION. Well that’s a pretty obvious statement, most likely prompted by some CYA clause within a business liability insurance policy. Of course there is risk; there is always risk. Allow me to share a quick story with you…

I had it all under control until one of these risks materialized out of the cold winter air. The plan for early 2018 was to give a 30 day move out notice to our Outer Banks beach house tenants so they can move out in March. Then we were going to spend a few months remodeling the beach house so that we can make it our primary residence in June. We were going to put our current house on the market in May to hopefully cash out close to half a million dollars in equity. 2018 will be the year where we finally break the golden handcuffs.

But before all that we still had one last event planned at the end of 2017 – a big family get together in Texas. My nephew moved to Austin with his fiancée recently to escape the high cost of living in Brooklyn, NY and to experience what life in the South was all about.

We rented a house on Airbnb (get $40 here) in the Zilker park neighborhood. It was a cute little bungalow perfect for our family and within walking distance to my nephew’s swanky apartment. We had a lot of fun exploring Austin for the first time and it’s definitely worth a trip.

Although next time I hope the weather is more TX and less Canada-like. An arctic cold front made its way to Texas and we saw snow flurries 2 nights out of 7, including the New Year Eve. Highly unusual for the area from what we were told by every local.

Meanwhile, the temperatures back home plunged to -8 Fahrenheit. That’s -22 Celsius. I’ve lived in the Mid-Atlantic region since 2001 and I do not recall ever seeing temperatures like these. And it wasn’t just for a day either. Temperatures stayed frigid for a couple of weeks.

Austin was cold but not as miserable in comparison. We still did a lot of walking and hiking exploring the cool trails right in the middle of the city. We also rented a car and went to Pedernales Falls. The falls along with Fredericksburg and Luckenbach towns are all well worth a visit.

On the drive back to Austin risk reared its ugly head. A deer ran out and smacked head first into my nephew’s new-to-him Prius C. No one was hurt (except for the suicidal deer) but the car will need some bodywork. Nothing too crazy but expensive nevertheless. Not exactly how we all expected to kick off the New Year.

Soon after that it was time to say goodbye and head back home. Our flight from Austin to Atlanta arrived on time but for some reason they held us at the gate for 20 minutes. We had a short 45 minute layover and were worried about missing the next leg.  

If you’ve ever been to ATL you know how huge that airport is. Our second plane was on the other side of the terminal so we ran as fast as we could. Easier said than done with a 5-year old and a grandma.

Three quarters into our sprint we were told by someone that we just missed the boarding. Not wanting to give up now we continued running to the gate. I got there first and was told that we made it just in time! But then the ticket checker guy said that they only had 2 seats left on the plane and that he didn’t realize I had other people with me. Delta gave our seats away since we weren’t there on time. All despite the fact they knew that our flight from Austin was sitting at the gate.

We spent the night at a hotel comped by Delta. After a 4-hour nap we boarded the first morning flight back home. Annoying? Sure… but it pales in comparison to what was in store for us next.

It was snowing when we landed and retrieved our car from the long-term parking lot. Just as we got on a highway to drive back home my wife’s phone rang. It was our neighbor saying that there was some water on the house by the garage.

We asked the neighbor to turn off the main water line in the crawl space. I was hoping for something just a step up from a frozen pipe incident we had before. Praying for a pipe break in the crawl space that I could fix with a pushlock fitting. What we found upon arrival was worse. Much much worse…

“Some water by the garage” turned out to be a ton of water frozen all over the siding like this:

I hesitated before going in because I knew what this meant…The house was a complete mess. The first floor had standing water slowly draining into the air vents. Ceilings were down in multiple rooms. Water was still streaming from the ceiling even though the water main was shut off. Furniture was soaked and visibly damaged. Hardwood floors were starting to cup. Carpets were soaked. Pictures, computers, electronics, clothes, shoes, books… 

We don’t know when the pipe burst in the attic. Our backyard neighbor noticed water in his backyard, decided to investigate and saw water on the outside of our house.

I cut the power and started taking pictures and videos to document for the insurance company. I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am to have homeowners insurance on the house. The damages could easily escalate into six figures. Without insurance we would be $%&#@!

Have you ever wondered how much damage a single ½” burst pipe can do to a house? Let me show you.  

The living room with water still coming down…

The kitchen… My favorite table will soon be declared a total loss…

Ceiling’s looking pretty rough…

Everything in the office was a total loss…

Water still coming down in the office…

Master bathroom was full of fallen down drywall and insulation…

Pipe burst right over the master bathroom so it’s a complete gut job…

Never thought I’d see the toilet from the movie Trainspotting in my own bathroom…

What a mess… I get PTSD just looking at these pictures but it is what it is. We are moving forward. After talking with the insurance company and the contractors we feel confident that the house will be better than it was before the incident. The contractor suggested we think about it as a forced remodel paid for by someone else. 

We are still planning on moving to the Outer Banks in June. It looks like we’ll be adding another house remodeling project to the list. I just hope the rest of the year will shape up much better than the first week of 2018. I’m OK with front-loading misfortune as long as we can look forward to smooth sailing ahead.

I hope your new year started on a much calmer note. Please keep the Big Red Risk Sign in mind while you’re busy daydreaming and planning. Life sure has a way to ground one in reality.

 <Insert Forrest Gump quote here>


6 thoughts on “There Is Risk

  1. Oh man, that is just awful. It looks like a hurricane and a tsunami hit at the same time! So sorry, reminds me of the old Yiddish proverb, Man plans, God laughs! But you seem to have a stoic steady attitude. You will certainly be able to top anyone’s home disaster stories at parties.

    • Thank you, Steve. This is my first brush with a disaster of such magnitude and it feels very different from watching it on TV. Probably a good trial run for when we move to our beach house this summer 🙂 I haven’t heard that proverb before but it’s certainly fitting!

  2. Woah… That’s horrendous! Very sorry to hear 2018 has kicked you hard in the nuts already .

    Don’t know any proverbs but that classic D-ream song (UK band, maybe you haven’t heard of them) “things can only get better” certainly springs to mind.

    Hope you/the contractors get things sorted ASAP!

    Best of luck.

  3. Totally sucks.

    Just out of curiousity, pipes in the attic? We sure don’t do that up here in Canukistan!

    • Yep, some genius put a 50 gallon water heater up there and a whole bunch of pipes that are not even insulated. We’ll have to address this during the rebuild.

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