My Basement Was Flooded by the Remnants of Hurricane Ida. Now What?

Here’s how I navigated the murky waters

Flooded basement and torn up carpet
The flood's aftermath: ripped up carpet and padding in the author's New Jersey basement.
Photo: Rachel Rabkin Peachman/Consumer Reports

I knew what was left of Hurricane Ida was coming fast and fierce around us all in the Northeast last night, after leaving a path of destruction stretching all the way back to Louisiana. And yet, I still wasn’t prepared for the sight I saw in my basement in suburban New Jersey just a few hours after the torrential rain had started.

Our carpeted recreation room was a literal sea of toys floating in water that was ankle-deep. Dozens of tiny plastic dolls and soppy stuffed animals were seemingly swimming for their lives as they made their way around brightly colored bins of books, circled underneath stored furniture, and bumped up against our new elliptical trainer. 

How had the water accumulated so quickly? Why wasn’t the room’s in-ground sump pump working? And could I salvage any of my kids’ beloved treasures?

More On Storm Preparedness

You would think that as a journalist for Consumer Reports, I’d be prepared with the answers. Ideally, I’d have a wet/dry vac, dehumidifiers, and utility pumps ready to go. But alas, I specialize in health, food, and product safety, not home appliances, so I was decidedly unprepared.

Fortunately, my husband, Russ, had the brains to act fast and the brawn to do what needed to be done: He grabbed a bucket, and began scooping up the floodwater and pouring it into our basement sink. He would go on to do this for hours as the rain poured down—flooding our streets, stranding drivers across the region in their cars, and putting many people in graver danger than what my family faced.

As for me, I went to work collecting as many items as I could and bringing them to dry ground in a small storage area of the basement and on the first floor of our house. In between trips to the basement, I called plumbers to see if any were available to repair our broken sump pump. No surprise, they were all inundated with calls and entirely out of reach. So Russ and I were left to fend off the deluge of water and salvage whatever we could.

We were, admittedly, novices and maybe a little panicked, so we may not have done everything the way CR experts would have recommended. For instance, we didn’t turn off the power before entering the standing water, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises. But fortunately, we knew enough to avoid touching wires and plugs while we worked, and no one was injured. (Here’s CR’s step-by-step guide to cleaning out after a flood.)

Our mission as we saw it was to preserve as many of our important belongings as possible and prevent mold from accumulating in the basement.

Around midnight, I left the basement to put our two kids to bed and get some sleep while Russ worked diligently bailing out the basement into the early morning hours until the rain finally let up.

The Morning After

Mercifully, today we awoke to a bright and sunny morning and found that most of the water in our basement had been absorbed by our carpeting in both the rec room and in Russ’ home office. In other words, there was no more water to wade through. But we knew we still had a ton of heavy lifting to do.

Our main goal was to air out the rec room and the office (both of which were carpeted) to prevent mold from setting into our floors and walls. To do that we borrowed a wet vac and an extra fan from a generous neighbor and opened up all the basement windows to let fresh air in. We used the vac to get rid of remaining puddles and ran fans to begin drying it all out.

Toys stacked in plastic boxes in flooded basement
Toys rescued from the floodwaters of the author's basement.

Photo: Rachel Rabkin Peachman/Consumer Reports Photo: Rachel Rabkin Peachman/Consumer Reports

Then Russ ripped up the wet carpets while I got on the phone and called flood remediation companies (no one has called me back yet) and our home insurance provider to file a claim.

Let’s just say I got the easier jobs. Russ figured out how to break through the carpet with scissors in a corner of the room and then pull it back (“It’s like peeling an orange,” he explained to me). And again, he worked for hours.

What I wish we had: A dehumidifier recommended by CR to help reduce the moisture in the basement. Though we have one dehumidifier running already, we need at least one more to make a dent in the problem on our hands. All of the stores in our area are sold out of dehumidifiers (we are far from the only people with flood damage from the storm) so we’re crossing our fingers that we can get one delivered tomorrow.

And now, we wait. We think we’ve done all we can on our own to prevent mold until the professionals arrive to help, we hope, in the next day or two.

All in all, I know we’re very lucky. No one got hurt, several neighbors were there to offer help when we needed it, our power never went out, and we’re hoping our insurance company comes through to help us pay for repairing the damage. In the meantime, I’ll be nursing several stuffed animals back to health in the dryer.

Rachel Rabkin Peachman

I'm a science journalist turned investigative reporter on CR's Special Projects team. My job is to shed light on issues affecting people's health, safety, and well-being. I've dug deep into problems such as dangerous doctors, deadly children's products, and contamination in our food supply. Got a tip? Follow me on Twitter (@RachelPeachman).