With the remnants of category 4 Hurricane Harvey lingering over coastal areas of Texas and dropping record amounts of rainfall, it’s crucial that people take precautions to stay safe. The Texas Department of Public Safety notes that flash flooding is the No. 1 weather related killer in Texas. Also, almost 50 percent of flash flood deaths nationwide involve someone drowning after being stuck in their vehicle, or getting out of the vehicle in high water and being swept away.
Even in what may seem to be shallow water, the DPS notes that tires can act as flotation devices, lifting vehicles and carrying them downstream. A 3,000-pound car can float in just 2 feet of water. As little as 6 inches of water can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
People are urged to follow these safety tips during severe weather events:
- Unplug appliances and electronic devices that are susceptible to flood waters. This will help prevent electric shock.
- Get to higher ground and leave areas that are subject to flooding.
- Do not allow children to play near ditches, storm drains or areas with high water.
- Remember that dangerous waters can seem deceptively calm, and if you encounter flooding, move to higher ground – turn around, don’t drown.
- Avoid areas already flooded and avoid any fast-flowing water.
- Be extremely cautious of any water on roads or in creeks, streams, storm drains or other areas – never attempt to cross flowing streams or drive across flooded roadways and always observe road barricades placed for your protection.
- Monitor weather radios and news broadcasts for updated information on current and anticipated severe weather, and heed warnings by local officials - when in doubt, get out!
- During stormy weather, do not camp or park vehicles near water.
- Keep in mind that flood dangers are even harder to recognize at night.
Those who are stuck in their homes as flood waters rise should not stay in the attic if their home is flooded. The Federal Emergency Management Association says in the worst case scenario, people should get on the roof. Call 9-1-1 for help and stay on the line until your call is answered.
If you evacuate, do not go back home until local authorities say it is safe to return. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes that standing flood waters can spread infectious diseases, chemical hazards and can cause injuries. If it appears that you will have to evacuate, if possible shut off utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve.
After flooding has occurred, the CDC advises people and pets not to drink flood water, which may be contaminated. Listen to local authorities to find out if the water in your tap is safe to drink or use for bathing. During flooding conditions, people should only use bottled, boiled or treated water for cooking and drinking. If there is food in your home which has come in contact with flood water, it may have been contaminated and should be thrown away rather than eaten.
The CDC also reminds people to practice good hygiene. Keeping your hands clean during an emergency helps to stop the spread of germs. If your tap water is unsafe, you can wash your hands with boiled and cooled water, disinfected water or bottled water.
Here are some additional tips offered by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention:
- Turn off natural gas or propane tanks to prevent fire, electrocution or explosion. Return to your home in the daytime if possible. If you need extra light, use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns. If you smell gas or think there may be a gas leak, contact the police or fire department. Do not turn on an electrical switch because it could cause a spark. Do not return to your home until authorities tell you it is safe to do so.
- Wash all linens in hot water or have them dry cleaned.
- Large items that cannot be washed, such as couches, fabric covered chairs and mattresses, should be dried in the sun and thoroughly sprayed with disinfectant.
- Steam clean all carpets.
- If sewage has backed up into your home, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup.
- Get rid of any items that cannot be disinfected, such as wallcoverings, cloth, rugs and dry wall.
- If you have a wound that may have been contaminated during the flood, check with a doctor to see if a tetanus shot is needed.
The CDC also advises that you may encounter chemical hazards following a flood. Rising waters may have buried or moved chemical contaminants during the flood. Also, if you discover propane tanks, do not attempt to remove them yourself. These could potentially burst into flames or explode. If you find propane tanks after a flood, call the police, fire department or the state fire marshal’s office. Car batteries damaged by a flood may still contain a charge and should be removed with extreme caution using insulated gloves.
Flooding is tough enough to deal with as it is taking place, but the aftermath also presents several challenges. Although flood recovery can be painstaking, it’s important to take steps to make sure you have a safe and healthy home.
The National Flood Insurance Program has a website advising people of steps to take at floodsmart.gov.
Here are a few tips offered at that website:
- First and foremost is to check for structural damage before entering the home, because damaged structures can collapse and trap people. People should keep the power turned off until an electrician has inspected the home.
- Mold is another concern and should be removed as soon as possible.
- Wear gloves and boots when you clean and disinfect. Items that are wet should be cleaned with a pine-oil cleanser and bleach and completely dried. Watch the item over the course of several days to see if fungal growth or orders appear.
- After flood waters recede and it is safe for you to return, the CDC encourages people to practice safe cleaning procedures. Walls, hard-surfaced floors, and many other household surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water, as well as a solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water.
It can be a long a tedious process to repair flood damage, and floodsafety.com urges people who have experienced flooding problems to call their insurance agent and to keep a detailed record of the damage by listing items that have been harmed or destroyed, and taking pictures or videos of work as it is done.
For more safety tips related to severe weather, visit here and here. For up to date information on road conditions/closures, visit http://conditions.drivetexas.org/current/