Camas woman’s home damaged by heavy rains

Stormwater drain apparently overflows, flooding basement

By Brooks Johnson, Columbian Business Reporter

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CAMAS — Debbie Hinesley had a most unwelcome trick-or-treater visit her home on Halloween.

While she was out helping her grandkids collect candy Saturday, a neighbor called her, panicked.

“Your driveway is flooded,” the neighbor said.

The small river of muddy water found its way into Hinesley’s basement, causing at least $10,000 in damage after a stormwater drain uphill apparently overflowed.

“There’s absolutely no reason this would have happened,” she said, “if the city had just done its job.”

On Thursday, displaced mud still speckled Greeley Street and its sidewalks. In Hinesley’s basement — hers is the only house on the block that has one, she said — Hinesley points out the drywall she has already taken out and the carpet that’s going to have to come up next.

“I don’t know what was in that water, so it will all have to be sanitized, too,” she said.

If the storm drain at 10th Avenue and Ivy Street had been properly cleaned, Hinesley said, Saturday’s heavy rains wouldn’t have spilled down her street and into her basement.

“Three inches of rain? That’s nothing here,” she said.

But Camas City Administrator Peter Capell said it was a “major rainfall event,” and the drain had been cleaned Sept. 23 and checked as recently as Oct. 26.

“I’m pretty confident all of the debris that plugged the inlet was washed out from (Saturday’s) rain, because we had a lot of water coming down,” Capell said. “It was outside our control.”

In the 30 years she has lived at her Greeley Street home, Hinesley said she has never had water in her basement; she at least never had to use her sump pump until Saturday. But since she’s not in a flood zone, her home isn’t protected by flood insurance. So she filed a claim with Camas in the hope the city’s insurance will take care of the damage — though Hinesley said she wasn’t too optimistic about getting a settlement.

Camas is part of the Washington Cities Insurance Authority, which evaluates each claim on its own merit.

“We have to go through our process,” Capell said. “It would be a gift of public funds if we just wrote her a check.”

Though he said the flooding was neither the city’s nor Hinesley’s fault, Capell said he was empathetic to her situation.

“I’m just hopeful that she can be helped out,” he said.

An adjuster investigated her home this week, and Hinesley said she expects to know more soon.

A few of her neighbors have apparently filed claims, as well, including one who had water come in through a street-level front door.

The timing of the flood couldn’t have been worse for Hinesley. The 50-year-old was getting ready to put her house on the market before the 3 inches of dirty water pooled in her basement. Disclosing the flood could ding its value on top of what she might have to pay to fix the damage.

And as contractors start making estimates, Hinesley can only cross her fingers the city’s insurer comes through.

“In these cases, it’s not up to the city,” she said.