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why are floods dangerous

Here’s Why Floods Are Dangerous For You and Your Properties


Many people underestimate the sheer danger of flooding, so much so that they fail to realize the power of flowing water even at fast speeds. Water flowing through anything at a rate of 4 mph can exert up to 66 pounds per square foot of force. If you double the speed, you multiply the power four times. Floodwaters moving at 8 miles per hour can exert 264 pounds per square foot of force.

flooded community

 

To put it simply, the faster the floodwater moves, the more damage it can do to anyone or anything in its path. Floods cause not only deaths but also extreme property damage.

People and properties living near coastal areas, bodies of water such as lakes or rivers, and even large metros with poor sewer management systems are at significant risk for floodwaters’ inherent dangers.

So why are floods dangerous? Let’s look at what it can do to vehicles, homes, businesses, and human beings.

Flood Dangers For Cars And Vehicles

car under water after a dangerous flood
A river overflows its banks in Northern Nova Scotia.

Did you know that drowning in vehicles accounts for about 32% of flood-related deaths? People assume that their car is more robust than floodwaters or that it’s heavy enough not to float. But it happens more than it should. It only takes up to two feet of floodwater to make a car float, and once it flows, it only takes a small current to make vehicles feel powerless.

If a vehicle is caught in flowing flood water, it will only stop moving when the water stops moving. If a person is inside the car, they can’t steer or control the vehicle. Considering the speed at which the water moves, crashing into any obstacle like a wall, pole, or even another car, can cause severe injuries or fatalities.

Whilst there are deaths caused by collisions, most deaths are caused by drowning inside the vehicle. This is because the person inside can no longer escape. After all, the force of the floodwater makes it difficult for anyone to open the door.

If vehicles get carried away by floodwater, imagine how easy it is for a fully-grown adult to get swept away.

Health Dangers Of Flood Water

man standing in water after a serious flood
Even with stationary floodwater surrounding you, please don’t make the mistake of wading through it to get from one point to another. You expose yourself to potential illnesses and diseases brought about by contaminated water. Remember, flood waters may come from a clean water source. Still, if it goes through an urban area, it will carry contaminants from sewers, runoffs from nearby factories, and more.

You may not even be able to visibly see the contaminants or smell them, for that matter. These are the most common illnesses you expose yourself to when you wade in floodwaters:

Skin Infections

In 2017, a woman from Texas died weeks after wading through floodwaters brought about by Hurricane Harvey. She contracted Necrotizing Fasciitis, or what’s commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria.

This is not entirely uncommon. Hurricane Florence brought about 37 fatalities caused by vehicles caught in floodwaters. However, there were also reports of deaths caused by storm clean-ups.

Remember, anything that floodwater washes through is also contaminated with whatever bacteria, germ, or parasite. Do not handle anything without wearing gloves and other protective equipment, especially when cleaning up after a flood.
If you have any cuts or scrapes at any given time during a flood, cover them up and administer basic first aid. Use antibiotic treatment when available, and keep an eye out if the affected area becomes red or swollen.

If, in case days later, it doesn’t look like it’s healing as it should, or if you develop fever or chills, seek medical attention immediately.

Gastrointestinal Illnesses

When you accidentally swallow or ingest flood water, you also take in viruses, parasites, or bacteria that cause gastrointestinal illnesses. These illnesses may be benign, with common symptoms including diarrhea and vomiting. But they can also cause dehydration when it becomes severe. Some germs could contaminate floodwaters, such as E. coli, salmonella, and Cryptosporidium.

In metro areas, leptospirosis is a common and fatal illness caused by exposure to flood water contaminated with rat urine.

Suppose you have to wade through floodwater; assuming that the water is still and shallow, wear protection such as gloves and pants to cover your legs. Wear boots if you have to, and keep your eyes, nose, and mouth away from floodwater as much as possible.

Wash thoroughly afterward and disinfect footwear, clothing, and other items exposed to contaminated floodwater properly.

In case you feel sick or unwell, seek medical attention immediately.

Flood Dangers For Home Or Business

why is flooding bad

Homes and businesses are not exempted from flood dangers. Fast-moving floodwaters that are a couple of feet high can easily ruin your foundation. If the house does not wash out, the entire structure is still severely compromised. The general rule here is that you should never enter your home if you feel that it’s not safe to do so. Here are some examples of how flooding can damage your home and what damages to look out for.

Appliance Damage

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) systems and other appliances in your homes can become severely compromised by floodwaters. If you reenter your home and find wet or damaged appliances, turn off your home’s electricity if it’s safe to do so.

Please don’t use any compromised appliances until professionals have inspected them. Turning them on when they are compromised can damage them further.

If your refrigerator is compromised due to a power outage or flood damage, throw spoiled or contaminated food away. If food items have mold or carry a foul odor, throw them away.

Electrical and Structural Damage

As mentioned earlier, structural and electrical damage is typical in the aftermath of a flood. Buckling floors, damaged roofs, or foundation cracks are prime examples of structural damage, and they’re noticeable too.

Broken and flayed electrical wirings are things to look out for inside your home. If you, or your clothes, are wet, or if you spot any wet wires, do not touch outlets, electric boxes, and switches. Have your local electrician inspect the wiring once things have settled down in your home.

Mold and Mildew

Mold can start to grow on any damp surface within 24 to 48 hours. This means that drywall, insulation, flooring, and even personal property such as clothing, can be affected by mold.

To prevent mold from growing in your homes and belongings, open your windows and dry out wet items and belongings when it’s safe to do so.

If an electrician inspected your home and told you that it’s safe to use electricity, use dehumidifiers and fans to help dry out the house.

Damage to Septic and Well Water Systems

Lastly, floodwaters can damage well water systems and septic tank filters. When septic tank filters are damaged, it reduces their ability to accept water. Get your systems inspected by a professional as soon as it’s safe.

Floodwaters also carry sediments that may get into your well systems and contaminate your drinking water. Get your water tested and treated, if necessary, before drinking it.

Conclusion

Floods are dangerous, no matter where you live. You can be in a highly urbanized area and still be exposed to these dangers as anyone from a coastal or rural area.

If your area is issued a flood warning, evacuate when necessary and wait for the government’s signal to return home. Properties can be easily replaced after a flood, but lives aren’t.

If you’re dealing with a flooded house, you can learn more about the step-by-step process for removing the water from your basement here.

preston

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