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Coming Home in the Wake of Irene

Couple returns from L.A. to find basement flooded

As Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc in our area last Sunday, Gila and Jules Zalon were in Los Angeles for a reading of Gila’s new film, “The Rife Machine.” Knowing a hurricane was a possibility during their trip, the empty nest parents of three adult children prepared as best they could. “We made sure the sump pump was working and pulled out plugs,” said Gila. Then she said they “crossed their fingers and hoped for the best.”

The large basement, which was completed after the couple purchased their West Orange home in November of 2005, spans the entire length of the house. There are five rooms in the wall-to-wall carpeted area. It functioned as their home office  space, with each having their own office, plus a conference room, storage room and open area which housed their copy machine.

Fortunate for the Zalons, their middle daughter Lara and her husband Kevin Sanders and their two young boys, also live close by in West Orange. The day of the hurricane Kevin went to check on his in-laws home. Once there he called Lara and said, “there’s some bad news here.”

Over the course of five nonconsecutive hours the couple worked to remove about two inches of water in the Zalons' basement. Sanders estimates they got rid of almost 100 gallons of water from her parents basement from the wet vacuum alone which held eight gallons and was dumped over the cleaning process about 12 times. Working in tandem with her husband, Sanders described how she “ran a snow shovel across the carpeted floor, pushing water, which Kevin would catch and then dump into the sump pump.”

The Zalons returned home Tuesday night at midnight, making this Wednesday their first real day to assess the damage. Their first order of business was finding someone to move their furniture and rip out the basement carpet which she described as “starting to smell moldy,” adding, “it can’t be good to breathe that air.”

Once all the destroyed carpeting is removed and all furniture relocated, the Zalons plan to redo their current home office design and move their offices upstairs. In the basement they plan “to install French drains and look to install a less absorbent flooring,” Gila said.

The Zalons are still evaluating their damage and commented they “don’t know yet,” what exactly was lost.

The Zalons run their businesses out of their home. Gila is a screenwriter and producer for her own Independent Film Company, Back Pocket Productions. Jules is a lawyer running his entertainment, copyright and trademark focused practice from home. Gila describes it as a “symbiotic relationship. He does my legal work and I manage the office.”

While cleaning out the basement, Gila received a call from an agent wanting to discuss who was on the potential casting list to star opposite Joe Mantenga in her new film. Her response was “I think that list got lost in the flood.” One already discovered irreplaceable lost item was a redwell file containing school art and other memories from her daughter’s school years. As to that loss, she felt, “I could just cry.”

The Zalons know they are lucky to have their family close. “They saved our basement," Gila said. "If they didn’t do that, who knows how much more would have accumulated.”

As for her efforts Lara said, “I love my mom. That’s just what people do.”

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