backyard swimming pool
Photo: Wendell T. Webber
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Right Neighborhood, Wrong Yard

I fell in love with the town of Hampton Bays, on the eastern end of New York's Long Island. And in November 1997, I purchased this 25-year-old ranch-style house on half an acre. It had some woods, and the property was nicely secluded. It was my first house, and I figured it was something I could handle.

I bought the property in the fall, and I was really looking forward to the coming summer, when I could start gardening in my new yard. Then the spring rains came. During the first downpour, which went on for hours, I watched in horror as the backyard filled up. I’d always wanted a pool, but this wasn't it. The flood was runoff from the road behind my property, which slopes down from there. I hadn't realized until then that, basically, my place sits in a bowl. And it became all too clear in the months that followed that the flood wasn't a one-time thing. Read on to see how I went from a half-acre floodplain to the beautiful yard shown here.
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