When It Rains, It Pours
A Tale of 3 Storms (Part 2)
This fall, we experienced three separate storms that caused a huge amount of damage to the bookshop. (The preliminary estimates suggest we suffered over a million dollars in damage to our store and inventory.) Rapid response and cleanup saved a lot, but we are looking at a massive loss and there's an unimaginable amount of work left to do.
For Part 1, read A Blustery Day.
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We were directly in the path of Hurricane Ian (a category 5 storm), which tore the roof off the building - and the wind swept through and blew out the exterior doors. As a result, the storm raged INSIDE the bookshop for several hours, wreaking havoc with our beautiful displays and dumping thousands of gallons of water inside the shop. The storm damaged about 60% of the shop on the north side (this is going to matter later in the story).
We were able to start repairs and cleanup almost immediately, thanks to an incredible response from the community - a crew of volunteers appeared, as if by magic, to help us dry everything out and mitigate further damage. (After a storm like this, the urgent concern is to remove all the water: including the water in the air! De-humidifying is absolutely crucial.) Everything soggy was removed within 36 hours (the magic time frame to keep mold away), including the center column of the Book Arch, which had soaked up an incredible amount of water. We opened an insurance claim. We contacted our landlord to get the ball rolling on repairs. We slept... very little.
By Halloween we had cleaned up the debris, removed the trash, repaired the lights, cleaned the floors, and we were ready to open just in time for the holiday shopping season (with the damaged sections of the store closed off for repair).
Then, during the first serious thunderstorm, we discovered that the roof had NOT been correctly repaired. In just a few minutes, the south section of the store was decimated (the part which had previously been undamaged!) and our sci-fi and fantasy section was absolutely destroyed. The ceiling caved in (onto Scott, who was standing below it). Thousands of gallons of water poured in from the outside.
A river of storm water flowed through general fiction and out the emergency exit (we quickly removed the sill plate from the door, allowing the water to escape so it wouldn't build up). My beautiful new damask wallpaper on the east side crumpled down into a soggy pile. Acting fast, we removed the book wyrm sculpture that hangs above Horror & Historical Fiction. Oh, did I mention? All of this happened after ten p.m.
That same night of the storm I put in a call to the landlord's office, requesting a cleanup crew and an emergency roof repair. The following morning (Nov 3rd) I called again, and the management office dismissed my request (apparently they thought I was overreacting). We began cleanup ourselves, and I kept calling, finally getting the office to take me seriously around 5pm (remember, we had only 36 hours to get water mitigation done before the onset of mold and such - it really IS time sensitive). By that point there were very few staff left to send over so the office manager came herself and stayed late into the evening, mopping up the floors and clearing out soggy things with us.
Of course, as you may know, Tropical Storm Nicole was about a week later. Since the roof was the same as it was on Nov 2nd, we had ANOTHER deluge inside the bookshop (once again focused primarily in the southeast corner). This time, I asked the landlord for a cleanup crew beforehand (I called him personally, skipping the management office). Thanks to my pre-planning, we had half a dozen guys on hand during the storm to actively carry out defense. Armed with shop vacs and power tools, they removed the remaining insulation (which was now soaked in stormwater), ripped out damaged ceiling sections before they could cause further damage to the bookcases, and shored up things that needed extra support. (By the end of the day they already had the debris - including about three trash barrels' worth of soaking wet sci-fi and fantasy books - packed up into a flatbed trailer.) We spent the next 24 hours on call, coming into the shop every 3 - 4 hours to clean out any standing water that had collected (using shop vacs and the leaf blower). Once again, the name of the game is GET IT DRY. Nothing we do will matter at all if there is water around to ruin everything. So we have the temperature cranked down to 60 and the fans running full time and we're working our tails off!
So, what actually IS wrong with the roof?
On November 11th we decided to go up on the roof ourselves and find the problem (we figured that at least if we know what's wrong, that would be an improvement over our prior state). A reasonably cursory inspection revealed serious, unrepaired damage on the southeast corner of the roof. It was clearly not repaired after Hurricane Ian (for reasons known only to the roofers). The problem is easier to show you than to tell you about, so I posted a video on our social media accounts. Choose your fate: Facebook | Instagram | Tiktok