TAMPA - The following are important points to remember when driving in flood conditions:
- Never drive through flooded roadways. The depth of the water is not always obvious. If the vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants, sweeping them away.
- If driving, be aware that the road bed may not be intact under flood waters. Turn around and go another way.
- Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
- A foot of water will float many vehicles.
- Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.
Even if not in a vehicle, floods pose obvious and unseen hazards:
- Avoid or leave areas subject to sudden flooding. These include dips and low spots.
- Avoid already flooded and high velocity flow areas. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams.
- Use caution at night when it is more difficult to recognize flood dangers.
- Children should never play around high water, storm drains or viaducts.
If your home has suffered flood damage, here are some steps to help you stay safe.
Beware of Hazards
- Check for structural damage before entering home
- Use flashlights (not lanterns, torches, or matches), to examine buildings. Flammables may be inside.
- Check water, gas, electric and sewer lines, and report them to the appropriate authorities.
- Do not approach wild animals that take refuge in your home. Wild animals often seek refuge from floodwaters on upper levels of homes and have been known to remain after water recedes. Call your local animal control office or wildlife resource office to handle the situation.
- If fresh food has come in contact with flood waters, throw it out.
- Boil drinking water before using. Wells should be pumped out and the water tested for purity before drinking. If in doubt, call your local public health authority.
- Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
If your home is flooded:
- As soon as you’re allowed back in the house and it’s safe to turn on the electricity (an electrician will have to make this determination), turn the air conditioning on to start the movement of cool, dry air throughout the house.
- If the power is not on, don’t open the doors and windows hoping to get some air through the house. The humidity outside is probably higher than inside, and all the wet outside air goes inside, making a bad situation worse.
- If the house is truly soaked, you may need professional equipment: high-velocity air movers and dehumidifiers. Your home AC and household fans don’t have the power to do the job.
- Remove soaked carpets and pads. Insurers will regard them as unsalvageable if they’ve been soaked in water from a storm (homeowner’s insurance does not cover damage from rising water; separate flood coverage is required).
- If you have hard-surface floors (wood or tile), a wet vacuum can help suck up the water.
- A hurricane’s heavy rains may also cause damage from above. If water penetrates the roof, ceilings may collapse, insulation is soaked, water soaks walls and drips down through air conditioning vents.
- Wet carpeting, furniture, bedding and any other items holding moisture or water inside the building can develop mold within 24 to 48 hours.
- The big post-flooding headache is mold, which thrives in warmth and moisture. Washing surfaces with a bleach solution or painting over mold with primers and shellacs such as Kilz® will hide mold, but physical removal is the only real solution. That means cutting out drywall, removing soaked insulation, and sanding wood studs.
- Vinyl wall covering should be removed. It acts as a vapor barrier so the wall behind it can’t dry.
- Some homeowners cover everything with plastic after a storm. If furniture and household items are wet under that plastic, you’re creating a mini greenhouse where you’ll grow a bumper crop of mold. Dry the items before you wrap them in plastic.
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