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Drenching rains were inundating North Carolina on Friday as Hurricane Florence crawled inland. Storm surges, overflowing waterways and intense rain that might dump as much as 40 inches could leave entire communities underwater. “Catastrophic flash flooding is expected to continue to worsen today,” the National Weather Service warned.
Here are five ways to avoid the risks associated with floodwaters, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
1. Don’t drive.
Motorists should avoid floodwaters. The general rule is that if water flows more than halfway up a vehicle’s tires, you shouldn’t go any farther. Never drive through fast-moving water because a vehicle could be carried away within moments. Floodwater can rise suddenly and unpredictably.
“Don’t drive your car while water covers the road,” Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center, said Friday. “We have a saying, ‘Turn around, don’t drown.’ It really is true.”
2. Watch out for hidden objects.
Even shallow water may contain downed electrical wires or sharp objects that could cause serious injury. Wildlife such as snakes, alligators and dangerous insects can also hide in floods.
3. Limit exposure to water.
Assume that floodwaters contain bacteria that can seriously sicken people and animals, particularly if sewers have overfilled. Water may have mixed with agricultural chemicals, oil, animal waste, sewage or other hazardous substances.
Exposure to open wounds or drinking floodwater could lead to infections or diarrhea. If you have to go into the water, wear waterproof waders and your cover skin. Wash hands and other body parts that have come into contact with floodwater.
4. Only turn on power from a dry place.
Water may have damaged wiring and pipes from stoves, ovens, air-conditioners and other appliances and electronic devices. Only switch on power if you can do so from a dry spot. But if you smell gas, shut off the gas valve and open all windows before leaving the house, and inform the gas company or emergency services. If you smell gas, do not turn on the lights or do anything else that might cause a spark.
5. Protect against mold.
Mold brings a large number of health risks. After a flood, residents should dry out their homes and thoroughly wash floors, walls, toys and clothing after the waters recede. Insulation should be replaced. Open all doors, including closets, to allow air flow. Open kitchen cabinets. Remove drawers and wipe them clean. Wipe everything clean and allow it to dry.