Water-damaged items from flooded basements wait to be picked up Tuesday in the 400 block of South 60th Street in Milwaukee. The flooding was caused by a water main break at Hawley Road just south of I-94 Saturday. (Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
The pile of mud-covered belongings grew outside Maria Santoy’s home on South 60th Street Tuesday morning, hinting at the destruction in the basement, where she estimated 5 feet of water had flooded in just days before.
“We got to get all the stuff out of the basement so we can clean it and try and keep it from molding and mildewing too bad,” said her brother-in-law, Chris Ericksen, who was among those who had come to help haul things to the curb.
They had yet to find out if there was any damage to the home’s structure.
Upstairs, Santoy, her sister, daughter and granddaughter were packing her belongings.
She can’t stay in her home of 42 years because there’s no heat.
Santoy’s furnace was destroyed by a water main break at Hawley Road just south of Interstate 94 on Saturday morning, flooding basements and vehicles.
Maria Santoy is bundled up because her furnace was destroyed when her basement was flooded. Also ruined were her water heater, washer and dryer, a deep freezer, lawn mower and refrigerator. (Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Also ruined were her water heater, washer and dryer, a deep freezer, lawn mower, refrigerator and countless other things that she and her family couldn’t put a price on.
The basement floor remained wet with mud Tuesday as things were hauled out.
She and her family estimate the damage and losses will reach into the tens of thousands of dollars — funds she doesn’t have.
As for insurance, she said they were told the damage wasn’t covered because it’s considered a flood and she doesn’t have flood insurance.
Her car, which she said was totaled, will be covered by insurance.
“What do we do, though, in a situation like this? Thank God she has us, but none of us have the means to financially help her still live here,” said her daughter, Lisa
Formanek said it’s important that the city take responsibility and help as much as possible.
Information on filing a claim is available online via the City Clerk’s Office.
Ald. Michael Murphy, who represents the area, said he would do whatever he could to help residents recover the damages they’ve incurred.
“This is a horrible thing to happen to people during the middle of Christmas and New Year’s,” he said, calling the situation stressful and traumatizing.
He said he would be hosting a meeting with neighbors in the next week or so to go through the process of filing a claim against the city.
Murphy had been told the city had received up to 30 calls regarding possible claims, though there could be multiple claims filed at a single property.
Santoy is staying with Ericksen and his wife, Pam, who is Santoy’s sister.
Others have remained in their homes.
Santoy’s neighbors told similar stories of water and mud in their basements, of treasures, furnaces and water heaters wrecked and significant costs that they’re trying to figure out how to address.
Around the corner on West Adler Street, a disaster recovery truck was parked outside the house Kiki Stolpa and her family rents. Plastic bins of her family’s things were stacked on the side of the house, waiting to be sorted through.
Stolpa shares the home with her son, his wife, their two children and his wife’s mother.
The water wiped out everything in the basement, including family pictures, $1,000 worth of food they bought for the month and the furnace and water heater, she said.
They got a new water heater on Monday, and they used space heaters for the two days the furnace was out. Others brought them meals and helped them with laundry.
Maria Santoy’s refrigerator and furnace were destroyed by muddy floodwaters from a watermain break. (Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Stolpa said at this point she couldn’t put a price on the things that were lost, including family keepsakes.
Her family plans to file claims with the city.
The experience has put stress on them, she said.
“Where do we go? What do we do? How do we pick up the pieces?” she asked.
Stolpa also said, though, that the community had been good to them in their time of need.
Next door, Barry Stapleton said he had waist-deep water in his backyard during the flood.
He said his girlfriend’s vehicle was in his garage and was wrecked but that insurance would cover that.
He estimated the damage at about $50,000, including the vehicle. He, too, lost his water heater, furnace and other belongings that had been in the finished basement. Stapleton said he’d also have to replace drywall in the garage and a fence that was damaged.
On Tuesday, the home was still without hot water and there were portable heaters upstairs to warm the house. Thankfully, he said, it hasn’t been too cold, but he’s hoping to have it done as soon as possible.
And he’s hoping the city will reimburse the costs.
“It was a blow,” he said.
Milwaukee Department of Public Works spokesman Brian DeNeve said in an email Tuesday that the total cost of the damage has not been determined. The city evaluates each claim to determine whether the damages are eligible to be reimbursed.
The cause of the break had not been determined Tuesday, but the city had learned that the rupture happened in a 16-inch main that connected to a 48-inch main. It was originally believed that the 48-inch main had broken.
DeNeve said the department has been working to inform residents about the claims process and that Milwaukee Water Works inspectors went door-to-door on Saturday. On Monday, a Milwaukee Water Works claims inspector also contacted residents to determine the potential damage and make sure residents knew how to file a claim.
He said the department responded immediately after the first report at 9 a.m. Saturday but that stopping the water moving through a damaged main isn’t as simple as closing a valve.
“If not done in a proper sequence and incremental approach to decrease pressure, a ‘water hammer’ effect and subsequent reverberations may cause additional breaks in the system,” he wrote.
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