By Jayson Jacoby
Wednesday was a good day to have filled sandbags.
Or empty buckets.
By a fortunate coincidence, Baker City’s public works department had the sandbags available on the rainiest day in the city in almost 29 years.
A total of 1.57 inches sluiced down at the airport, the most since 2.29 inches fell on Aug. 31, 1984.
Tenants at the Baker Tower, the 10-story building also known as Hotel Baker, at the corner of Main and Auburn, made do with buckets after a clogged roof drain caused water to pour into parts of the 84-year-old structure.
Chris Storz, who has lived on the eighth floor of the Baker Tower for the past four years, said he came home for lunch Wednesday to find water pouring into his living room.
Storz, who is a deputy district attorney, said he has had minor dripping during heavy rain in the past, but “nothing of the magnitude” of Wednesday’s event.
He considers himself lucky in one respect, though.
Because the clogged drain is at the southeast corner of the roof, the worst of the leaking was confined to that side, which Storz said is the part of his apartment that’s relatively bare.
He said water ruined a book and some magazines but none of his other possessions.
“If I was going to have a flood situation it was the perfect place to avoid damage to my property,” Storz said.
He said the building’s owner Shayne Olsen of Bend, was in Baker City Thursday to assess the water damage.
Storz said the carpet in his apartment will need to be replaced.
“If you stepped down hard enough you could get water to squirt up,” he said.
Storz said the other apartment on the eighth floor, on the north side of the building, had considerably less water damage than his unit.
On the fifth floor, where the Baker County Economic Development Department has its office, workers had to leave Wednesday because of water damage, said Gina Perkins, one of the staff members.
Perkins said they might be able to return to the office as soon as Monday.
The staff is able to take phone calls at 541-523-5460.
Chaves Consulting, which operates a computer data center on the building’s third floor, is well-sealed and did not sustain any damage, Kathleen Chaves said.
Storz said the Baker Tower’s owner, Shayne Olsen of Bend, was in Baker City Thursday to assess the damage.
As for the sandbags, city crews used those to stop water from pouring into the Baker Bulldog Memorial Stadium and into a nearby home, said Tom Fisk, the city’s street supervisor.
“It’s the first time we’ve put out sandbags in many years,” Fisk said.
Typically the city doesn’t keep filled sandbags around because the fabric tends to rot quickly when it’s exposed to the sun.
But the city had used filled bags last year to hold down roofing material when the warehouse roof at the public works compound was being repaired, and those bags were available Wednesday, Fisk said.
Workers placed about 25 to 30 sandbags on the north side of E Street, adjacent to the football stadium, and along a house at Eighth and E streets, he said.
Before city crews arrived, water had spilled over the sidewalk and flowed down into the football field, which is well below street level.
The water caused minor erosion along the concrete stairs that lead to the field, Fisk said.
The culprit was a common one in the city Wednesday: overwhelmed storm sewers.
The combination of several hours of heavy rainfall, and seed pods and leaves clogging catch basins, caused water to pool in several areas, although no significant damage was reported, Fisk said.
Public works crews had to clear debris from a drainage ditch near 13th and D streets to allow water to get into the storm sewer system, Fisk said.
The rebuilding of Resort Street contributed to flooding in the basement of the building that houses The Sycamore Tree, at 2108 Main St.
Owner Jacki Adams said water from the building’s roof runs down a drain pipe that leads to Resort Street and a storm water catch basin.
But because the street and sidewalk have been removed, in preparation for the rebuilding project, water from roof, combined with the rainfall itself, seeped through the building’s foundation and into the basement.
“It was like a waterfall coming through the wall,” Adams said.
She said she called City Hall after noticing standing water in the basement Wednesday morning.
A crew from Mike Becker Construction, the lead contractor on the Resort Street project, installed a temporary drain which, after a few hours, stopped water from flowing into the basement, Adams said.
Water damaged shopping bags and other supplies that were stored on the floor, she said, but no merchandise was lost.
“The damage was pretty minimal, so we’re really grateful,” Adams said.
Wednesday’s rain trimmed 2013’s rainfall deficit from 37 percent below average to 9 percent.
WEDNESDAY RAIN TOTALS
• Interpretive Center: 1.6 inches
• Baker City Airport: 1.57
• Meacham: 1.41
• Sparta Butte: 1.32
• Baker Valley Agrimet: 1.16
• Sumpter: 1.09
• Mason Dam: .92
• Yellowpine CG: .77
• Hereford: .64
• McCall, Idaho: .62
• La Grande Airport: .57
• John Day Airport: .32
• Unity Dam: .24
• Ontario Airport: .20
• Burns Airport: .16
• Pendleton Airport: .04
• Boise Airport: .01