Home & Family
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Over the past week, many areas of Alabama have been hit with some level of flooding. Whether it be minor or severe, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System is here to help residents recover from flooding.
Flooded Homes and Other Structures
Flooded homes and other structures can harbor safety hazards as recovery efforts begin. Before entering any structure, make sure it is structurally sound. The following are some questions that people can use to evaluate the soundness of a building:
- Is the foundation itself damaged?
- Is the building cracking—no longer square but leaning to one side?
- Has the building shifted off its foundation?
- Is the building partly destroyed—missing a wall or partially crushed?
- Is the roofline out of position?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, the building may collapse at any time. To be safe, do not enter the building unless a qualified official has declared it safe.
Starting to Dry Out
Once a structure is safe to enter, the drying out phase can begin. Start by removing as much water as possible. This can be done with pumps, wet-dry vacuums, squeegees and other items. Note: When removing water from a flooded basement, this process must be done over time. Only empty approximately one-third of the water per day. If the water is removed too quickly, it may cause the basement walls to collapse.
Once as much of the liquid water has been removed mechanically, the wet building will need to be dried out. The contents of it will also need to be dried or thrown away. See the following information for dealing with flooded household items:
When drying out a building, fans greatly increase the evaporation rate if the air is dry. Fans must be used with another method of moisture removal from the air, such as a dehumidifier. Electric space heaters can provide heat for drying, but to efficiently dry they must be large enough to adequately warm the air.
Mold can be a big issue with flooded buildings. Wet walls must be completely dried out before they can be rebuilt. If not dried fully, mold will grow inside the walls when they are sealed. Clean all wall cavities if they are moldy. Remember, mold can be a health hazard and must be removed before a house can be lived in.
Flooded Landscapes and Gardens
After a flooding event, there are several things that people need to be aware of when cleaning their landscapes and gardens. First things first. Make sure the area is safe before attempting any clean-up efforts. Be sure to look for any downed power lines.
Once the area has been deemed safe, assess the site to see if human activity would cause further damage. Saturated landscapes should be allowed to dry out before clean-up efforts start. This is to help prevent rutting or other damage to the ground.
Once a landscape is dry, homeowners can begin removing trash, debris and any uprooted plants from the property. Always wear protective clothing, such as gloves and watertight boots, when clearing debris. Separate the trash and the yard waste and dispose of it appropriately.
Many landscape plants will appear to be dead after a flooding event. Some plants–such as native trees, shrubs, perennials and hardy bulbs–have proven to have a good survival rate two weeks after a flood. However, other plants–such as Japanese holly, Indian hawthorn and nandina–typically do not survive after being underwater.
For vegetable gardens that were submerged in water, both transplants and seeds will probably rot in the ground and will have to be replanted. Even if the plants are not completely submerged in water, the excess rain causes stress to plants, making them more susceptible to disease. Therefore, avoid working with the plants when they are wet. If disease is found on a plant, remove and destroy it so other plants are not infected.
This information and more are available in the Alabama Extension Emergency Handbook. The handbook is accessible online at www.aces.edu. They can also download the iBook for free from the Apple iTunes store.