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The Dangers of the Aftermath of a Hurricane

By Lynn Prince

Unbeknown to many of us, surviving Jimena was just the beginning.........the aftermath of this violent temptress has left untold dangers to our health and well being. The potential for disease outbreaks and serious injury loom far after the threat of a major hurricane. Folks in New Orleans, Louisiana are still dealing today with “Katrina Cough” from mold spores. What are some of these dangers and how should we handle them?


Power outages create the use of alternative sources of fuel such as small gasoline engines, generators, gas stoves, lanterns, camp stoves, burning wood and charcoal..... and carbon monoxide (CO) can build up in enclosed areas and cause sickness or death quickly. Never use any of these items in the house, except wood in a fireplace that is properly vented. Generators use only where well ventilated. Symptoms of CO toxicity are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.


Follow all warnings about water on roads. Do not drive vehicles thru water. If you have to work near floodwater wear a lifejacket.


Until a government official has investigated a damaged building, stay away from it. Leave immediately if you hear shifting or unusual sounds.......structure may be about to collapse.


If bitten, wash immediately and seek medical help....rabies is a real possibility.


Typhoid, cholera, Hepatitis A and Cryptosporidiosis are associated with consumption of contaminated food and water supplies due to flooding of sewage systems. Contaminated waters may also harbor toxic chemicals including pesticides and petroleum by products. Food not properly refrigerated should not be eaten. Drink only boiled or bottled water. Boil water 3-5 minutes. Sterilize another container and pour water back and forth between containers......will taste much better.

To sterilize water using Chlorox, use 8 drops of chlorox bleach per gallon of water...let sit ½ hour. If the water does not smell like chlorine put in another 8 drops and let it stand another 15 minutes. Small amount of bleach is safe to drink. If water looks dark, smells funny or stuff is floating in it, DON’T drink it.


Wear long pants and shirts. Use DEET or insect repellant. Remove all standing water in your yard immediately..... Malaria, Denque Fever and West Nile Virus become possibilities rapidly.


Drain all standing water in your house immediately 24-48 hours. Remove all water damaged items as carpet, mattresses, furniture, wall board and destroy if unable to get water out. Promptly assess and fix leaking roofs, windows and pipes. Mold growth can be different colors or look like spots and smells musty.


Use extreme caution in cleaning mold. A –95 respirator ($12-25 at a hardware store) should be worn. Mold releases spores continually that can be inhaled and can become debilitating and deadly once in our systems. Long gloves that extend to the forearms are in not touch molds with bare hands. Wear goggles with ventilator holes to avoid getting mold spores in your eyes. Scrub mold off of hard surfaces with detergent and water and chlorox.......dry thoroughly. Make sure detergent has no ammonia when using chlorox with it.I prefer not using chlorox as it creates air pollution when it is in contact with certain materials......dioxins, furans and other orgnochlorines. I find that a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide sprayed on the mold does the trick in minutes There are other products on the market, my favorite being by Concrobium Mold Control.

Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, carpet, wall board etc. throw away. Mold can grow in the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials such as cement........use fans and heaters to dry. Increase ventilation to decrease humidity. Dehumidifiers, fans and heaters are good.

If mold damage is caused by sewage or contaminated water call a professional if possible who is experienced in cleaning, drying and remediation of buildings. Unless you really know what you are doing can be very dangerous to attempt to do this on your own.

Severe allergic reactions, asthma, respiratory complaints, rashes and cough are among some of the symptoms. Seek medical treatment if you are experiencing any of these.

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