5 unsavory side effects of flooding
Drying out and cleaning up after the floodwaters recede is only the beginning of the post-flooding woes.
Thu, Sep 05, 2013 at 03:02 PM
Residential flooding following torrential downpours, hurricanes and other severe weather events is one of the most heartbreaking headaches faced by a homeowner.
Drying out and cleaning up after a flood can be a laborious, expensive and all-around draining (excuse the pun) experience with much attention paid to salvaging what hasn’t been claimed by floodwaters. However, there are a few side effects of flooding – some standard, some a bit unexpected depending on where you live – that can adversely impact the health, well-being and in one case, sanity, of flood victims. For the sake of being prepared for just about everything – amphibians, reptiles and raw sewage included – here’s a look at five unsavory side effects of household flooding to be aware of.
Annoying, unremitting and potentially deadly, mosquitoes don’t just magically appear out of nowhere to ruin backyard BBQs. Near or directly in bodies of stagnant water of pretty much any shape, size or form – marshes, puddles, lakes, irrigated pastures, streams, clogged gutters, flower pots, half-empty birdbaths and the list goes on – is where blood-eating mamma mosquitoes choose to lay their eggs. And generally, these disease-carrying vectors in their adult form don’t stray too far from where they were born.
Residential flooding from heavy summertime rain and other sources can spell trouble when it comes to plagues of skeeters. Just ask David Stewart of Pickens County, S.C., who found that his home was under siege by the nuisances following particularly wet weather.
The most effective way to control mosquito populations following heavy rain and flooding is through source reduction or the elimination of the places where these particularly pesky insects breed and thrive – a fantastic reason to get rid of those old tires, buckets, plastic wading pools or rarely used wheelbarrows junking up your front yard.
Mold growth and the myriad health concerns that come along with prolonged exposure to spores are a massive concern following residential flooding that can occur in the wake of severe weather events such as hurricanes. Discolored walls and ceilings, signs of water damage and a foul, musty odor are all dead giveaways that action should be taken immediately.
If in doubt, a mold remediation specialist can help identify the presence of health-compromising microscopic fungi. However, your eyes and nose are generally the best ways to detect an infestation.
A basic, initial step is to remove all wet possessions and building materials from a home within 24 to 48 hours of flooding as recommend by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If it cannot be dried, cleaned and replaced, the item should be discarded – this particularly applies to carpeting, ceiling tiles and drywall. It is crucial to also air out a home by opening doors and windows and employing fans, air conditioners and/or de-humidifiers. Cleaning semi-porous and nonporous items with soap and water or a commercial mold remediationt product can further prevent mold growth as can basic moisture control practices such as increasing air circulation, fixing leaks, cleaning air ducts and eliminating sources of indoor condensation.
Photo: Urban Woodswalker/Flickr
Heavy, steady rains can spell sweet relief in drought-prone areas but with torrential downpours comes a rather gruesome side effect: backed-up sanitary or combined sewage lines. Excessive amounts of stormwater brought on by localized flooding can enter overworked and antiquated sewer systems resulting in malodorous basement catastrophes, overflowing toilets, raw sewage-leaking bathtub drains and more. And, unbeknownst to many homeowners, sewer-related backups are not covered by most homeowner’s insurance policies or flooding insurance; in most instances, protection against blocked private (lateral) and main sewage lines must be purchased separately as an additional rider at a nominal cost.
Clean-up following a sewage backup requires that homeowners practice extreme caution given the risk of coming in direct contact with dangerous pathogens. The Massachusetts department of Energy and Environmental Affairs offers a comprehensive guide on how to proceed.
Many flood-stricken homeowners, preoccupied with salvaging possessions and filing insurance claims, often neglect to remember that with rising waters sometimes come unwanted – and rather nightmarish houseguests – in the form of venomous reptiles.
Following the historic flooding that impacted large swaths of Australia in 2011, thousands of deadly displaced snakes (and crocodiles) terrified stunned residents of Queensland struggling to dry out. And this is a phenomenon not limited to Down Under.
Speaking with AmericaNow News, reptile expert and Hollywood snake wrangler Jules Sylvester explains how aquatic cottonmouth water moccasins have a knack at finding their way into Southern homes following severe flooding: “Down in the South, of course, we deal with flooding all the time. Every year we get flooding. And the snakes don't stay where they are, obviously. They come up with the rising water. The floodwaters come up and into your house. So once the water's gone down, you've got a cottonmouth in your oven. You've got a cottonmouth in your laundry. You've got a cottonmouth on the second story, under your bed, in your bed, in the toilet."
No. Just no.
Grif Griffin of Augusta Crime Stoppers painted a no less terrifying picture following the recent flooding of the Savannah River: "They're thousands of snakes that lived on this river and are now in people's sewers. Those snakes will come up through your drain.”
In addition to snakes and mosquitoes, prolonged flooding around homes can sometimes lead to invasions of the amphibian variety. In a rather extreme and unfortunate example, Paul Marinaccio Sr. was recently awarded $1.6 million in compensation after flooding from a development near his Clarence, N.Y. home turned his 40-acre property into frog-heavy wetlands. Unnerving and most likely noisy for sure, but Marinaccio was really affected by the flooding as he suffers from a severe phobia of frogs stemming from a traumatic childhood incident that involved him being chased through an Italian vineyard by a crazed man brandishing bullfrogs (we couldn’t make this stuff up).
“You people don't understand. I am petrified. I go home at night, and I can't get in my garage because of the frogs. They're right in front of the damn door, OK?" explained Marinaccio in his 2009 testimony. “In the winter, it's OK, because I know there's no frogs. But in the summertime, I mean I'm a damn prisoner in my own home.”
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