Cara Radonich remembers the night of the storm.
Her daughter called and said that thunderstorm and heavy rain that moved through Middletown on May 3 had flooded their basement, with only the top two steps visible.
Radonich thought she must have misheard, that the bottom two steps were covered.
But when Radonich got home, only the top two steps could be seen, an oil tank and a water heater floating in 4 feet of water.
There had been storms heavier than this one since they’ve lived in the house, without ever having water in the basement, Radonich said.
And it wasn’t just her home. Several of her neighbors on Middletown’s West Main Street also had water.
The homeowners believe they know who, or at least what, was responsible for the flooding and damage to their homes.
West Main Street in Middletown is part of the town’s ongoing Streetscape work, a nearly $18 million State Highway Administration project that includes road improvements, resurfacing, curb and gutter improvements, and stormwater management work that began in the fall of 2016.
Earlier on the day of the storm, workers had been replacing a culvert nearby, Geiger said, and a drain that had been put in collapsed and blocked a channel that would have let water escape.
“It looked, honestly, like a river was flowing down the street here,” Ryan Kline said, motioning outside from his living room.
Ryan and Whitney Kline were watching a movie during the storm when they looked outside and saw the water flowing down West Main Street.
The Klines had about 2½ feet of water in their basement, and had to have the fire company come and pump it out.
Their neighbors Annalisa and Roger Geiger had four sump pumps running to get the water out of their basement.
The flooding left their home’s foundation cracked in three spots, Annalisa Geiger said.
Since the storm, the residents’ efforts to get compensation for the damage to their homes have taken them through a frustrating maze of bureaucracy and red tape.
In May, the State Highway Administration directed the project’s contractor, Milani Construction, to “immediately address citizen complaints and begin necessary remediation of properties affected by flooding,” which it said was part of the contract that the company had signed.
But Milani and its insurer, Erie Insurance, have argued that SHA and the subcontractor did the actual work.
In June, Erie informed Radonich that its investigation “did not reveal any negligent action on the part of Milani Construction LLC that resulted in the water intrusion.”
The Insurance Division of State Treasurer Nancy Kopp’s office is conducting a review of the situation, and could only confirm to The News-Post on Thursday that it has open claims in the case.
On Friday, Erie Insurance spokeswoman Raychel Adiutori replied that “At Erie Insurance our customers’ privacy is important. Due to privacy laws we cannot disclose any information on this particular claim or situation.”
SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said in an emailed statement Friday that “This issue is being investigated and MDOT SHA is working with all pertinent stakeholders.”
Milani Construction did not return a request for comment Friday.
Meanwhile, the homeowners face both financial and psychological strain.
A storm restoration crew that came out after the first storm cost Radonich $3,500, which had to be paid out of pocket.
Another storm on May 30 left about a foot of water in her basement, and damaged the water heater that they’d bought after the first storm.
Mold has been a problem for the Klines, aggravating their son’s asthma, and they’ve paid $2,500 to have it removed.
They need a new boiler for heat before winter, and they’ve looked into pulling from their retirement or taking out home equity loans to pay the costs of the damage.
Geiger said she checks the basement every other hour any time it rains.
Ryan Kline said the ongoing search for a resolution has been frustrating and exhausting.
“Every time, it’s like we’re going back to square one,” he said.