Rains cave in Onalaska home's foundationThe single story house at 852 Fourth Ave. N. was doomed the day it was built.
By: By Anne Jungen, La Crosse Tribune, Superior Telegram
ONALASKA, Wis. -- The single story house at 852 Fourth Ave. N. was doomed the day it was built.
It's constructed on a sunken lot where Spruce Street meets Fourth Avenue North. Aging storm sewers can't handle heavy rains, though water pools in the yard even in light showers.
So when slow moving storms dumped four inches on Onalaska on Saturday night, homeowner Beth Peterson knew rainwater would find its way into the basement.
She didn't expect that it would fill it.
Water began trickling into the laundry room about 10:30 p.m. after it flooded the driveway. Peterson did what she could with a sump pump and towels.
"There's an egress window that filled up like an aquarium," she said.
Neighbor and former firefighter Jim Mason found the family of four downstairs rushing to salvage belongings. Six inches already filled the basement.
"I forced everyone out of the house," he said.
Mason turned off the circuit breaker and gas meter and ran across the street to his house for a flashlight.
"The whole house was an island," Mason said.
The east foundation wall folded minutes later, sending in enough water to fill the basement.
"My husband Tim was in the basement when the window broke but maybe that was the wall," Peterson said.
The family spent the night with relatives until the fire department called about 7:45 a.m. Sunday.
"I heard them say the wall collapsed," she said. "I sat down and cried."
The master bedroom and bathroom, laundry room and living area are ruined. Peterson last saw baby pictures, birth certificates and this year's Christmas presents floating in the dark water.
Their insurance policy does not cover flooding.
Peterson said the couple asked the city in October to fix the neighborhood's storm water system that's overwhelmed easily in heavy rains. City officials told them it wasn't in the budget.
"The water issue obviously is going to happen here again," city commercial building inspector Calvin King said. "Everything feeds into this lot. It's not a good situation."
A La Crosse home on Diagonal Road was razed in October after its foundation collapsed in heavy rains.
Copyright (c) 2011, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.