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Published June 01 2011

Power outages lead to backups in basements

FARGO – Tim and Brenda Bauer were in the process of painting their basement floor when Mother Nature decided to give it a wash Monday.

Inside the couple’s north Fargo condo, the clock on the stove froze at 9:06, the minute they lost electricity Monday night – causing their sump pump to shut down and water to back up into their basement.

By afternoon Tuesday, they had lined up a generator to run the pump and their refrigerator/freezer.

“As long as we keep the Ben & Jerry’s frozen, life is good,” Tim Bauer joked.

The couple used towels and mops to clean up the water, and with no carpet in the basement, damage was limited to a couple of cardboard storage boxes.

Other homeowners weren’t so fortunate.

Bill Piper, owner of Servpro of Fargo-Moorhead, said the restoration business had received about 20 calls by 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“It’s been some sewer backup and mainly sump pump backups because of the outages,” he said.

Steamatic in Fargo had taken 10 calls by Tuesday afternoon from homeowners in similar situations, several in the Eighth Street South and Osgood areas of Fargo, office coordinator Laura Hanley said.

Some homeowners used backup generators to keep their sump pumps running, while others bucketed out water by hand until power was restored, Piper said.

Damage caused by sump pump, sewer and floor drain backup usually isn’t covered under a homeowner’s insurance policy unless they have purchased a special sewer-and-drain rider, said Loy Larson, an agent with Farmers Insurance Group.

“It used to be included, but after the flood of 1997 up in Grand Forks, a lot of them made it an optional deal,” said Larson, who was still waiting Tuesday afternoon for power to be restored at his office on South University Drive.

The Bauers are no strangers to floods and power outages: They spent weeks without electricity while living in Hendrum, Minn., during the harsh winter and flood of 1997.

“To be without power here for a little bit, and when it’s May, it’s a lot different,” Tim Bauer said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528