VALPARAISO | When she noticed water on the basement floor, Sarah Beke assumed the pump on the washing machine was broken again. With 10 kids worth of clothing to keep up with, it was not an unreasonable assumption.
It wasn't until a few hours later she realized what she thought was "Tide and water" was actually sewage bubbling up from the basement floor drains. The clog that caused the backup was quickly cleared by the city's sewer department, but the family's home isn't habitable and members of the family have lost most of their clothes and linens.
Beke said she had started in on the "ton of laundry" on the basement floor when she noticed the water. Thinking it was the washing machine pump, she went upstairs to have her morning cup of coffee. She paid little attention as the children went up and down the basement stairs, tracking the water wherever they went, including the beds.
She took a shop vac to the task of cleaning up the water, but water was coming in faster than she could suck it up and take it out. It took about two hours for her to discover the problem wasn't the washing machine but apparently water coming up through the drain, so she called the city.
Assistant Utility Director Steve Poulos said the crew discovered a root ball blocking the line. Workers cleared it and flushed the line with water, which Beke said caused water to geyser out of the drains and her toilet briefly before the water drained away. With the unhealthy residue the flood left behind, the family wound up at the Hampton Inn and Suites.
That was Feb. 28, and they were still there Monday. Beke said it was hard finding a place to stay because of the Horizon League basketball tournament at Valparaiso University last weekend. She and her husband, John, a construction worker, had to rent two rooms to hold all the kids, and the rates increased from $136 a night for each room to more than $160 per room from Thursday through the weekend.
Sarah Beke said all of the children had diarrhea and vomiting from contact with the sewage, and it aggravated one child's asthma. One had to have IV fluids at the hospital emergency room. She said the clothes and other laundry, including some in a basement storage room, will have to be replaced. An estimate for cleaning up the basement floor and bathrooms came to $7,000.
The family's insurance has a $500 deductible, but Sarah Beke said they spent money they might have used for that to pay for the hotel rooms. Despite the disaster, the family already has gotten help. The manager of a Red Robin restaurant where they dined picked up the tab for two nights of meals, and she said everyone from the city and the hotel have been nice.
"It's been a terrible disaster, but some people really pulled through," she said. "I'm just waiting for the insurance company or somebody to do something now. I would like them to work a little faster."