- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

Washington-area hardware stores are selling out of water pumps and restoration companies have been swamped with calls as residents scurry to dry out flooded basements and brace for more rain this week.

At Logan Hardware in the District, an early-morning delivery of utility pumps, dehumidifiers and Shop-Vacs had disappeared by noon yesterday.

“We wish we had more,” said store manager Drew Sutter, noting that another delivery arrives Thursday. “It’s been a busy morning.”

Mr. Sutter said many customers coming into the store have reported flooding in their basement apartment units and are in need of a vacuum to pump out the water or a dehumidifier to cut down excess moisture. Other customers looking for a more permanent solution are snatching up sump pumps to prevent flooding in the first place.

The store’s other locations had similar experiences, Mr. Sutter said. The Glover Park store had one remaining Shop-Vac; Tenleytown was sold out.

Jim Bowe, general manager of Fischer’s Hardware in Springfield, said the store had several sump pumps left as of yesterday afternoon but had run out of battery backup systems for the pumps.

“Normally, you might [sell] a sump pump once a week,” said Mr. Bowe, who had about 15 going into the weekend. “We’re down to about six in two days.”

The Home Depot in Aspen Hill likewise saw a surge in flood equipment sales Sunday, store manager Steve Diddle said.

“A lot of people have been coming in, saying that their basement, the drains have been clogged and then water is coming in through the door,” Mr. Diddle said.

While most of the spike in business occurred just after the storm, some customers came in beforehand to prepare, he said.

“We had some pre-storm interest,” he said. “We’ve had an improved interest across the board on all weather-related items.”

Waterproofing companies and restoration specialists say they are struggling to keep up with calls from distraught homeowners.

“Today, when we came in we had about 70 voicemails to get to,” said Jason Ruffner, a water consultant for B-Dry System of Metropolitan Washington, a company that works with residents to waterproof their homes and prevent flooding. “We haven’t even gotten to those yet because we’re just so busy with people calling up, trying to knock down our doors to get service because they have 6 or 7 inches of water in their basement.”

The company is pursuing about 150 leads on new customers, Mr. Ruffner said. Because B-Dry Systems is a waterproofing company, a restoration company first must extract the water from a customer’s flooded basement. Then, a B-Dry service crew evaluates the property and makes it waterproof by digging a trench and installing a sump pump, for example, or a drain system to prevent water from building up.

“A couple of weeks ago, it was so dry — we were just sitting around looking at each other,” Mr. Ruffner said. “Mother Nature just helped us out.”

A representative who answered the phone at Servpro, a Manassas provider of fire and water-restoration services, said the store was too busy fielding calls to comment for this article.

“Everybody’s very swamped right now — no pun intended,” said Mr. Ruffner.

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