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After the Storm: What Is That SMELL??

September 9, 2021

On Monday, September 6, at 6 p.m., power was restored to my home nine days after Hurricane Ida took it away with a fury.

On Wednesday, September 8, at around 4 p.m., my land line and internet service were restored. So, I am back in business as usual, sort of.

In the minutes after my power came back on, I was unavoidably made aware of another presence in my home– the pungent aroma of feline urine and feces emanating from beneath the steps of my split-level house, pulled into my residence through my air conditioning.


It was awful– a smell that made me wonder exactly how many feral cats it would take to produce it.

Perhaps only one, taking refuge beneath my house and repeatedly losing its bladder and bowels during a horrific, 11-hour storm and in the days following. Perhaps one cat decided that the locale made a perfect home after dark, where it relieved itself repeatedly. I don’t know.

At first, I wondered if a feral cat had somehow managed to make its way into my attic and into my AC ductwork. My neighbor helped me check out my attic, and it smelled better up there than in my house.

Definitely coming from under those steps, which are located right smack in the middle of my house without reasonable crawl space.

My neighbor and I came up with a plan: Use 20 feet of 3/4″ PVC pipe to funnel 3 quarts of Pine Sol under those steps to both dilute the smell and chase away any cat that might still regard the space as home.

It has been just over 24 hours since we dropped our Pine Sol bomb. The steps and door frame no longer smell of cat pee and poop. However, the attached back hallway and one room off of that hallway are not adequately connected to my air conditioning, so a tamed-down version of that funky smell remains in my home, chiefly near the ceiling. I have tried fans and closing doors to try to get my AC intake to draw in the air. All that happened was that it stirred it up.

It does seem that the back hallway celing has less of the smell. I think that is only because the stench decided to vacation near the celing in the adjacent, underventilated room. I just used a step ladder to conduct a celing air check (sounds so official– my standing on a ladder and sniffing the air), and boy howdy, the smell mear the ceiling in said room smells like ripe, airborne litter box.

Solution for now: I’ll stay off of the step ladder and enjoy and appreciate lower-level air in my home.

Next step: Use the air purifiers that I bought for my COVID classroom to see if they might neutralize the funk.

It amazes me how smells migrate. While working on my doctorate in Greeley, Colorado, near the Monfort meat packing plant, that slaughterhouse smell could find its way into the middle of a room despite doors and windows being closed. Baffling.

I am grateful to have electicity again and mindful of the many who do not in nearby cities. I appreciate not spending several hours each day laundering clothes in my kitchen sink and bathtub, or going on the hunt for ice or gasoline, or filling gallon jugs of water to manually flush the toilet. Nevertheless, when I had to do these things in order to keep life going for my mother and me, I am grateful that I was able to make it work, as taxing and tiring as it was.

On this 56th anniversary of Hurricane Betsy, I hope its a good, long while before I face another Ida, and I look forward to all rooms in my home smelling Ida-free.


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  1. speduktr permalink

    All indications are that you might very well face another Ida-like event. I don’t know what you do to keep scared kitties from using safe spaces under your house as a bathroom. More likely it/they had the s*** frightened out of them. They are no more fond of living in a litter box than you would be. I hope some lessons have been learned to help you all to get through the next weather event although I’m not at all sure what they might be. Be well and stay safe.

  2. Christine Langhoff permalink

    Seems it never ends, Mercedes.

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