At first I wasn't worried. I wasn't getting hot water, but no big deal, I figured. Just go out in the garage and push the reset button on the water heater. I undo the panel, pull aside the insulation and press the button. Fine. But as I put the insulation back in place, I notice that it is slightly damp. Not a good sign...
I start looking at the bottom of the heater for water. I don't see any. But just to be sure, I run my finger along the bottom. In addition to ending up with a dusty finger (sorry, I don't usually dust around my water heater), I felt a trace of water. Hmmm. Time to call the plumber.
He says it is time for a new water heater. Fortunately, this is a plumber I have called many times, he does great work and I TRUST him! Since it was late afternoon and not an emergency, he asked if he could come at 8 the next morning. That was fine with me. He told me to turn off the water at the top of the water heater and to go in the house and turn on a hot water faucet to relieve some of the pressure.
After I did that, I noticed I could now see a little water under the water heater. I put a washcloth there. A couple hours later it was all wet, so I replaced it with another one. That one got soaked, so before I went to bed I put an old beach towel down and hoped for the best.
In the morning only about half the beach towel was wet, so it had done its job. At 7:45 I pulled my car out of the garage and parked it on the street. Just as I got out of my car, the plumber pulled into the driveway. 15 minutes early! :)
The plumber is now draining the old water heater and will install the new one, which he had picked up. It is precious indeed to have a great plumber to call, and I am so glad I have one!