The extensive damage inside a home in Bridgeville, Penn. after a flash flood caused by a hurricane. — FEMA NewsPhoto by Bob McMillian

As hurricanes and tropical storms move over land, they lose wind strength but continue to dump large amounts of rain into streams, rivers and lakes.  The aftereffects of Hurricanes Irene and Lee, along with heavy rain caused by changing weather patterns, has caused many communities along the Gulf Coast, Eastern Seaboard and many inland communities —some hundreds of miles from the coast— to experience flash or prolonged flooding.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shared information that can help families protect themselves from public health threats following flooding.

 Drink clean, safe water and eat safe, uncontaminated food.

  • Listen for water reports from local authorities to find out if your water is safe for drinking and bathing.
  • Throw away any food and bottled water that may have come in contact with flood or storm water.
  • CDC recommends discarding wooden cutting boards, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers. These items cannot be properly sanitized if they have come into contact with flood waters.
  • Clean and sanitize food-contact surfaces in a four-step process:

    1.   Wash with soap and warm, clean water.
    2.   Rinse with clean water.
    3.  Sanitize by immersing for 1 minute in a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach (5.25%, unscented) per gallon of clean water.
    4.   Allow to air dry.
  • If a water advisory has been issued, use only bottled, boiled, or treated water for drinking, cooking, food preparation, and hand washing. 
  • Read about keeping water safekeeping food safe, and personal hygiene and hand washing after a disaster.

Cleanup of Flood Water

Safely protect your home from mold.

  • When returning to a home that has been flooded, be aware that mold may be present and may be a health risk for your family.
  • Clean up and dry out the building quickly (within 24 to 48 hours). Open doors and windows. Use fans to dry out the building.
  • To prevent mold growth, clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water.
  • When in doubt, take it out! Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried, including:

    o   carpeting and carpet padding,
    o   upholstery and wallpaper,
    o   drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, and insulation material,
    o   some clothing, leather, paper, wood, and food.

Avoid risks during power outages.

  • Survey your area for downed power lines. Never touch a downed power line or anything in contact with them.
  • If the power is out, use flashlights or other battery-powered lights if possible, instead of candles.
  • If candles are all you have, place them in safe holders away from anything that could catch fire.Do not leave candles unattended.
  • Generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning devices produce deadly Carbon Monoxide (CO) gases and should only be used outside.  Read about carbon monoxide poisoning after a disaster.
  • Turn off the electric main before starting a generator to prevent inadvertently supplying electricity to outside power lines.

Read What You Need to Know When the Power Goes Out Unexpectedly

Follow local flood watches, warnings and instructions.

  • If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes etc.
  • Avoid driving through flood waters. Almost half of all deaths related to floods occur in vehicles.
  • Return to your flooded home only after local authorities have told you it is safe to do so.

Read After a Flood for information about precautions when returning to your home, cleanup, immunizations, swiftly flowing water and chemical hazards. 

Read Interim Recommendations for Driving Safely in a Disaster Location.

Read Worker Safety After a Flood

For this and additional information, please visit the CDC web site page about natural disasters and severe weather.


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