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When Plan A is a washout

Special to The Times

Diane and David Westervelt came all the way from cold and dreary Iowa over Presidents Day weekend to help their son, Clay, 31, fix up and landscape a Silver Lake duplex he had recently purchased.

Little did they know they had traded in snow for rain -- and a lot of it.

Instead of offering Clay some much-needed muscle laying sod, planting bushes and painting an antique appliance, the only thing the couple could provide was a little moral support and some good humor.

“Our whole trip here was a wash,” quipped Diane, 56.

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The unseasonably rainy weather -- about 11 inches recorded in downtown Los Angeles so far in February, with most of the wet stuff falling on the weekends -- has put a dent in many a home improvement project.

From Feb. 1 to 23, rain had fallen 11 days. Couple that with the 11 rainy days in January -- for an additional 9 inches -- and it seems like it’s been one wet day after another since the first of the year.

Homeowners with weekend repairs aren’t the only ones itching to get on with their projects.

“When the rain comes one or two times a week,” interior designer Mary O’Grady, 35, said of a delayed stucco project she was working on at an office building in Eagle Rock, “it really sets you back.”

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And when contractors can’t work, there is a ripple effect as homeowners wait for a sunny day and workers play catch up.

“We’ve had to put two projects on hold,” Bill Simone, president of Los Angeles-based Custom Design & Construction, said of additions his company had planned for homeowners in Valencia and Woodland Hills. “In years past, there would be a day or two of rain and then it would dry up. Now, it seems like it is raining day after day after day.”

To be safe, Simone said, both jobs have been postponed until March.

“We want to wait until we have some sense of security that we’re not going to get poured on,” he said.

Others are taking the rain in stride, reassigning workers indoors if possible.

“I’ve got five people working in my house right now,” Marilyn Batchelor said of the exterior painting job she thought she was to have had completed this month on her home in Hancock Park. “I just moved them all inside.”

Louis Garcia, 47, said a project to replace shingles on a home on Lookout Mountain in the Hollywood Hills has been delayed a week now.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “We are running late on outside work.... I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 29 years. This is the most amount of rain I can ever remember.”

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This is the third-rainiest season since the 1883-84 season, when 38.18 inches fell, according to the National Weather Service. At midweek, rainfall in the Los Angeles area totaled 33.87 inches.

And it’s not over yet.

“We still have March to go yet,” said Bruce Rockwell, a weather specialist with the Weather Service. “Before it’s all said and done, we have a chance of beating the all-time record.”

But while planned home improvement projects have been placed on hold, there are a number of folks right now who are taking on unexpected jobs.

“We’ve been selling a lot of tarps and duct tape,” said Tethpelyah Reed, a manager at Anawalt Lumber in West Los Angeles. “You know, things like sandbags and plastic have suddenly become our No. 1 seller.”

Allison B. Cohen can be reached at a.cohen@ix.netcom.com.


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