The Great Poop Flood of ’99

This is one of family stories, and it’s high time I share it with the rest of the world.  That way if I ever refer to the Great Poop Flood, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

My husband and I had planned to spend Thanksgiving of ’99 with my in-laws who lived 2 states away, but just 2 days before leaving we decided to stay home instead. Neither of us had a solid reason; we just didn’t feel like we should go. I was very pregnant with our 5th child in 6 years, and two states was a long way.
The in-laws were disappointed. The children were disappointed. Hubby and I were even disappointed, but we just couldn’t get motivated about going and so we stayed home.

Thanksgiving came and went, quiet and uneventful. Friday passed.

On Saturday morning the fun began. One of the girls complained about an odor and tried to blame it on her sister. I corrected her: “Did you do it? No? Then it’s rude to comment about it. Hush.”

A bit later, I heard them discussing an odor again. “Maybe Mom’s cooking broccoli.”

A moment later, through the small under-construction gap in the bathroom floor, one of the girls spied an unexpected sight in the basement.  Something was floating across the basement floor.

I ran to the bathroom to see what I could see, and my husband thew open the basement door.  He saw his shoes floating past the stairs.  He sprinted down the stairs and into the basement barefoot, thinking a pipe had burst.  If only that were true.

We saw dark, swirling waves. With toilet tissue floating. Waves of whirling, twirling sewage in my basement. And goldfish. The girls swear they saw goldfish.

There was sewage backing up, spewing like a fountain out of the washer drain. We had several inches of city sewage and anonymous floating items in our basement. While I gaped in horror from the stairs, Hubby donned his manly boots and courageously slogged through the mess to find the source – the washer drain pipe was spurting like a geyser gone horribly wrong – and he slowed it by plugging it with a wadded up rag.
After a panicked phone call and 45 long, slow minutes, the city sent somebody out to unplug the clog in the sewer lines under the street in front of our house.  They pulled out two bed sheets that somebody had flushed, and finally the flow stopped.

The sewage slowly seeped down through the heavily clogged floor drain in our basement.  A day or two later, at our request, the city magnanimously sent a man with a vacuum on his truck to suck up what was left. Then we were on our own.

I won’t go into details about how we handled the situation, but it involved several pairs of boots, a hotel room, lots of photos for an insurance claim against the city, a whole lot of bleach and paint, and a small mountain of our possessions on the street curb marked with warnings against scavenging. It mostly involved a very pregnant me killing time at the hotel with 4 rambunctious kids, 5yo and under, while Hubby did the dirty work.

We lost a sofa, a bookcase (with books. oh the pain!), many of our videos, a TV stand, and 3 months’ worth of food, plus many misc. items.  The food was one of the first things we put out for the trash man, and it disappeared long before the trash was picked up.  After that, we put out signs begging, pleading and warning people not to look for treasure in our trash.

It took 5 days and 5 nights in a hotel while Hubby spent 5 cold northern November days and nights airing out the house and carrying, cataloguing, cleaning and/or disposing of many of our earthly treasures.

It took many months of paperwork, phone calls, and trips to the city auditor’s office to establish that it was the city’s responsibility.

It took us two years to be reimbursed for our losses from the city sewer backup.

It took us 2 hours to realize how thankful we were to be home that Thanksgiving.


  1. i am sure you have greater appretiation for your husband,. that was an awful experience. Now itake that reimbursed money and forget about the food go to Vsion Forum and get some more books.;’) Blessings

  2. New Aunt Roxy says:

    While reading this story I couldn’t decide if I should be laughing or gagging!!! Very interesting story though, the whole time I’m reading I’m asking Chris questions, “where did they have a basement?” And I couldn’t beleive how brave Perry was to go down and face the flood!!

  3. Oh, I bet I know how bedsheets get into the sewer line. Towels too. If you ever replace a toilet, you stuff some rag or towel into the open pipe while you clean up & replace the wax ring (Kim’s favorite part- right Kim?) and then you put the new toilet down and screw it down to the floor & give the whole thing a good couple of flushes to test it out.

    Um, oops.

    Now where was that stinky old bedsheet? Someone pulled it our of the pipe and threw it in the trash, right?

    Cue poop flood…

  4. What the?? This world is a wild and crazy place I tell ya… that story is just plain WRONG!!

  5. Hannah C. says:

    That’s horrible!!
    And who in the world flushes BEDSHEETS??? How did they get down the toilet???

    I’m glad they did reimburse you – they should’ve helped out a lot more! Your poor hubby…

  6. Kimberly says:

    oh my goodness, you had me laughing so hard I could hardly breathe. It was the part about your daughters seeing goldfish that got me going!! I hope I never have to go through that. Yesterday our toilet overflowed and I was whinning!! I cannot imagine what your husband had to do…what a guy! I remember when I was 7 a sewer line broke outside and ran into our garden. Well, my 3 year old brother was being daring, getting close to all the poopy. Yep, fell right into it. My sister and I were rolling laughing. We still call him “sewie louie” 21 years later!

  7. I’m thinking the bedsheets were part of a crime. And they tried to flush them away to rid themselves of evidence. But Monk the detective was not on hand to confirm my suspicions. Even if he were, with his OCD and all of the poop, I bet the crime would still have remained unsolved.

    Thank God your family has not reaped lingering health problems! Ew.

  8. Oh my heavens, thank God you were home. I cannot imagine coming home from a vacation, tired and pregnant and ready to de-compress, only to find that.

    Oh my word.

    Oh my word.

  9. EWWWW!!! That is so gross!! Was your house the only one flooded or were more on your street? Seriously, bed sheets?

  10. So gross… awful!

  11. Eeewwwww!

  12. That is totally nasty. I bet it took you a long time to be able to change a diaper without getting sick. Glad I’m newly not pregnant instead of dealing with pregnancy nausea while reading that…

  13. i think would have to move… memories are to vivid for me, i don’t think i would have ever felt it was clean. 🙂

  14. That has to be the grossest story ever. And here I thought my tale of the poop-smeared Jenny Lind crib spindles was bad. I’m so glad I have an iron stomach because I read this post while eating a bowl of cereal.

  15. I’d laugh my head off a the ridiculousness of the situation if your detail hadn’t been so sharp as to make me feel like I’d been through it too. Now I’m really stressed.

    Oh, wait. That’s just the kind of morning I’m having. Not your fault. 😉

    Glad it’s a distant memory for you now. Ever find the sheet-flushing culprit?

  16. no poop floods here… you are a tough woman

  17. I flushed a bikini top down the toilet when I was little. Years later a guy came to clean out our septic tank and fished it out. I agree with Kacie. It must have been a kid who flushed the sheets.

  18. Ugh! You poor people! I agree with Angela, makes today seem like a piece of cake!


  19. Lois Groat says:

    Yuk! You brought back all my shuddering memories. We had a poop flood in our basement once. Had the same scavenging problem! Really, honestly, people – you do NOT want this stuff! I had four small children at the time. I never thought I would use that much bleach at once in my life.

  20. GROSS! That’s really disgusting. Sorry that had to happen to you. I’ve got to wonder…who in the world flushes bedsheets? (Maybe a little kid?) I’m amazed that they could make it down the drain in the first place.

    Glad you were home that year. Someone’s looking out for ya 🙂

  21. Angela H. says:

    Guhhhhross!!! That is about the most disgusting thing I think I’ve ever heard. Really. It’s one thing to deal with immediate family’s poop, but the entire city’s is another thing. How many times did your poor hubby take showers after that ordeal? I don’t think I shall ever forget this story….suddenly the day ahead of me doesn’t seem as trying. I can deal with 2 older girls, 3 little ones, and being extremely preggo….just so long as I don’t have to deal with the city sewer backing up. (shiver, shiver) Wow…..

    Angela 🙂

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