The robins love it.
There is nothing like a good rain to make the earthworms come out, and when they do – they’re gone.
Drenching rain – the area has had more than 3 inches this week alone – also tends to overwhelm storm sewers, and when the contents are forced up and out, they’re right there in the basement.
“We’ve been replacing sump pumps and clearing drains like crazy,” Mike Dollendorf, one of the owners of Roy’s Plumbing in Tonawanda, said Friday.
He and other plumbers are not dealing with water coming into basements because of outside flooding – so far creeks have stayed within their banks.
Instead, the water plaguing homeowners this week is coming from drains.
“There’s quite a surcharge going on with storm sewers and sanitary sewers that are backing up all over the place,” said Dollendorf, using a plumber’s word for “flood.”
In many cases, drain systems that might be more than a century old are to blame.
“Some areas here – and the majority of the City of Buffalo – have combined sanitary and storm sewers,” Dollendorf said. “And with a lot of the older homes – their downspouts are connected right to the storm sewer.”
The influx of water is too great to run out, so it all comes back in.
“We have this every time it rains heavy,” said Chris Christopher of the Town of Tonawanda, who spent part of Wednesday cleaning out his cellar. “Raw sewage comes up in our basement if I don’t get the plug in the drain. It shoots up like a gusher, 8 inches straight into the air.”
Calls to the town over the years have yielded no improvement, Christopher said. But, since losing power to his sump pump in another storm resulted in more than 3 feet of water in the basement, he has purchased a generator.
The sump pump just “burned out” this week at Peggy Strozewski’s home near Scajaquada Creek in Depew. She said she wound up with 2 or 3 inches of water in the basement.
“We have been working diligently on it for a couple days,” she said.
Her husband, Chris, replaced the sump pump with one that has a water-pressure emergency pump on it, which should kick in if the power pump conks out again.
It took more than a new pump to solve Christian Delisle’s problems on Granger Street in the Elmwood Village.
“Tuesday night, around 9 or 10 o’clock, my wife and I smelled a foul smell,” he said.
After they jokingly exchanged accusations and denials, he investigated further and found 3 to 5 inches of raw sewage in their basement.
Delisle said that the city had separated the storm sewers on their street from the sanitary system, but the storm drainage from the homes – built more than 100 years ago – still goes into the sanitary lines. It turned out their drain pipes had collapsed. They had to replace their lines to their street and will be doing work on the driveway that runs above them as well.
That may not happen soon. Rain is expected to continue today with slightly less chance of showers on Sunday, according to Aaron Reynolds at the National Weather Service in Buffalo. Monday could be partly sunny, with highs in the 60s, but by Tuesday showers are back in the forecast.
“Our current precip for April [by Friday afternoon] is 3.65 inches – and it’s only the 12th,” Reynolds said.
Normal precipitation for April is just over 3 inches; the wettest April on record was in 1961, with 5.9 inches of precipitation. The forecast does not bode well for crews working to get area parks in shape.
“We would be prepping our golf courses for the season, which would start May 1,” said Thomas Herrera-Mishler, CEO of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. We’ve hired our summer crews, but we can’t get out there – we can’t put equipment on the ground when it’s this wet. The only good thing about it is, with the chilliness, the grass has not started growing yet.”
“All of the soccer games and all of the baseball games have been canceled,” he added, and even when the rain stops, it will be a few days before the fields are playable.
“Delaware Park is the best, it can dry out in about 48 hours. South Park is the soggiest – it can take a week to dry out.”
Until things dry up, Herrera-Mishler said, the nonprofit conservancy counts on people not to play on the fields or drive on the grass.
“It causes unbelievable damage, and we can’t get out there to fix it,” he said.
Elsewhere in the city, the heavy rains have cause little disruption. City spokesman Mike DeGeorge said Friday that crews were monitoring creeks and rivers, particularly Scajaquada Creek near Delaware Park, but none had breached their banks.
The weather also hasn’t affected spring projects yet, DeGeorge said. “The good majority of our road work projects start on Monday.”
Also on schedule: The commencement of Re-Tree WNY’s spring planting program. Paul Maurer, Re-Tree chairman, said Friday that, since most plantings are along roadways, access won’t be a problem.
“We use bare-root trees, so we don’t need [heavy equipment] to lift them,” Maurer said. “A few people can handle them.”
Volunteers will be out in 10 municipalities plus the city, he said, with the “signature” planting event taking place around the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
“We plant rain or shine,” Maurer said. “The trees will be outside anyway.”