Floods soil Snowmass homes
July 7, 2006
Gigi Podolak was just hanging out in her house in Snowmass Village on Monday afternoon when she heard water dripping. She didn’t think much about it – maybe her sister left a window open and the rain was coming in.But when she wandered out of her basement-floor bedroom to explore the sound, she saw water running all over her father’s desk. Before she could even process what was happening, the window shattered and muddy water streamed into the house through the window well.Over the next half-hour, the 19-year-old college student raced around the flooded house, scrambling to rescue pets and personal belongings while trying to reach her father on the phone.Down the street, Logan Casebeer was waging his own battle to save his family’s house. Casebeer was standing outside in a window well, chest-deep in water, when the window broke and water rushed into a basement bedroom, sweeping as high as 5 feet along the walls and blowing closet doors off their tracks.In both houses, water blanketed the entire basement levels at least 6 inches high, bringing with it mud and other debris, including elk feces that washed down from a breeding area on the hill above. The mud destroyed furniture, televisions, cabinets, walls and flooring. Both families had remodeled just last year.But those things can be replaced, Liza Podolak, Gigi’s mother, said. The real loss is the invaluable personal items.”Gigi lost her whole senior portfolio,” she said.
The family also lost photo albums with baby pictures and snapshots of Liza’s grandparents. Zara, Gigi’s 22-year-old sister, lost her varsity letters and other irreplaceable memorabilia from her high school years.The two girls are now crammed into an upstairs guest room while the family struggles to clean up the mess.
And it doesn’t appear either family will be getting any help from their insurance companies. Their policies don’t cover flooding, mudslides or landslides.”From what my agent tells me, it doesn’t exist,” Logan Casebeer’s mother, Susan, said. “He said if my pipe had broken upstairs, I would have been fine.”Both families were astounded to learn about the hole in their insurance.”Someone could come in and steal everything on purpose, but they won’t cover the fact that the drainage ditch clogged and flooded” the house, Gigi said.Liza Podolak estimated the damage to the house and personal belongings will be between $100,000 and $150,000. Susan Casebeer said she wouldn’t even hazard a guess, although her insurance company did agree to pay for an estimate.
The two women were in surprisingly good spirits Friday, despite the losses. They were glad their children weren’t hurt – and they were extremely grateful for the help from their neighbors in The Crossings, an affordable housing subdivision that’s part of Snowmass Village. Neighbors were on the scene almost immediately, helping scoop mud out of the homes and trying to save the families’ belongings. As fast as the Podolaks and Casebeers could pile muddy clothes on their lawns, the neighbors would divvy them up and take them back to their homes to wash them. Close to 50 people came to help, bringing food and clearing debris until after dark.As the two families begin cleaning up in the wake of the localized disaster, their main concern is making sure the neighborhood doesn’t experience a repeat during future storms. “It will be our ‘shame on us’ if it happens again,” Susan Casebeer said.They intend to approach the Snowmass Village City Council to find out what its responsibility is in making sure water diverts properly and that drainage culverts don’t clog and overflow. They said they’ve seen similar flooding before on their street. One house even sustained similar damage several years ago, but the basement wasn’t finished. Several other homes may have been damaged as well during Monday’s rainstorm.
Although the process of cleaning up could take months, Liza Podolak considers herself lucky.”The only time I tear up is when I think that Gigi was in there alone,” she said. “She could have been hurt.”Susan Casebeer, too, was able to find the silver lining.”We have such a good neighborhood,” she said. “Everyone poured out and helped us. We couldn’t be where we are today without their help.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org