Last spring, 97% of the homes in Galena, AK were impacted by devastating flooding due to a massive, 30-mile ice jam on the Yukon River. Following that event, 372 households registered with FEMA for disaster assistance to help them get back to their homes and rebuild. The Juneau area is not immune from the dangers of flooding either, primarily from runoff after a prolonged or excessive rainfall. The Mendenhall River, Montana Creek, Jordan Creek and Lemon Creek areas have all experienced flooding from time to time. The National Weather Service monitors these areas for flooding, and will work with local emergency managers to disseminate information and warnings if a flood is imminent.
All Alaskans need to be aware of the potential for flooding in their towns, and must take steps to prepare their home and know what to do before, during and after a flood. If you live in a floodplain, you need to evaluate your home and take steps to minimize the amount of damage that would be done, and you should talk with us about purchasing flood insurance for your home. Floods can cause serious damage to your home and everything in it; flood insurance can help you recover should the worst happen.
What to do After a Flood
After a flood, you need to exercise extreme caution when you go back to your home and begin the cleanup process. In addition, you need to know how to properly clean, sanitize and dry out your home and other possessions.
Ready.gov and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have provided the following instructions for how to return to your home and begin the cleanup process after a flood.
- Remember that while floodwaters may have receded in some areas, many dangers still exist.
- Rely on local alerts and warning systems to get the latest information and instructions. Return home only when authorities indicate that it is safe.
- Avoid any area that has moving water.
- Stay out of standing water. It can be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines. It may also hide animals, broken bottles, toxic chemicals, raw sewage and other hazards.
- Roads that were previously flooded may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
- Stay out of any building that is surrounded by floodwaters.
- Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewer systems are serious health hazards.
- Do not use fresh food that has come into contact with floodwaters.
- Boil drinking water before using it. Listen for news reports to learn whether your community’s water supply is safe to drink.
- Pump out wells and test the water for purity before drinking.
- Wash with soap and hot water any canned goods that come into contact with floodwaters.
- Turn off the electric power to your home before re-entering it, even if the power is down in the entire community. If you cannot turn off the power from a dry location, call an electrician to turn it off. Never turn on or off your electric power while standing in water.
- Try to return to your home during the daytime so you do not have to use lights. If you must, use battery-powered flashlights and lanterns instead of candles, gas lanterns or torches.
- Have the electrical system checked by an electrician before turning it on again.
- If the house has been closed up for several days, go in briefly to open doors and windows and air out the home before you stay inside for any length of time.
- If your home has been flooded and closed up for several days, assume that it has been contaminated by mold.
- Your home must be dried out as soon as possible. Once it is safe to turn on your electricity, use a “wet-dry” shop vacuum, an electric powered water transfer pump, or a sump pump to remove standing water.
- If you do not have electric power, you can use a portable generator to power equipment to remove standing water. Never operate gasoline-powered tools inside your home or other enclosed areas. Carbon monoxide poisoning can result.
- Have the HVAC system checked and cleaned by a professional before using it. If it has been contaminated by mold, turning it on will spread the mold throughout the house.
- Walls, hard-surfaced floors, and other hard surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of 1 cup of bleach to five gallons of water. Be extra careful on areas that may come in contact with food, such as counter tops, pantry shelves, refrigerators, etc.
- Wash all linens and clothing in hot water or dry-clean them.
- If sewage has entered the home, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup.
- Remove and discard contaminated household items that cannot be disinfected, such as wall coverings, cloth, rugs, drywall, mattresses, carpet and carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam rubber items, books and most paper products.
- Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers. Open windows and doors too.
- Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup with hot water and detergent. Wash them separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.
- Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup is completed.
- Be sure to frequently wash your hands with clean, warm water and soap. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
You also need to be sure to contact your insurance agent as soon as you are able. We can help you work with your insurance company to expedite any claims and help to make the process as stress-free as possible. Above all, remember to be careful and remember that the safety of you and your family is most important.
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