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Myers: Keeping dry, healthy in flooded areas

Chad Myers
Chad Myers  

Chad Myers is a meteorologist and weather anchor for the CNN News Group based in CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta, providing weather reports for CNN/U.S. and CNN Headline News.

Q: If you live in an area where heavy flooding is forecast, what can you do to prevent damage to your home?

Chad Myers: Well, Florida has been the area most flooded with rain from Tropical Storm barry so far. Florida is very flat area, with no runoff, and the water forms ponds on the roadways. So the best thing you can do for you and your neighborhood is actually go out to the street and make sure that the drain is clear of paper, leaves, or whatever might be in there because it hasn't been raining for so long. If you can take a broom and get those things out of the drains, then the water can drain off.

Yesterday, we only 2 inches of rain in Chicago but with all the debris that was in the storm sewer drains, the water never went into those drains and there was flooding with 2 inches of rain. Parts of Florida have already had 8 inches of rain so you can imagine how that would really affect the runoff. Q: What about damage to one's health? Are there areas to avoid? What about health risks from standing water?

Myers: The health risk is from the raw sewage that gets into the water. Although it looks clean and appears to be rainwater, there are things that are backing up into that water that make it unsanitary.

Those are the things that will make you more sick than anything -- touching the water and putting your hands to your mouth or eyes. If you are in that water -- some people have to get through the water because it came up rapidly -- you really need to make sure you wash your hands and wash your body, because the raw sewage will get you sick and could cause dysentery.

Q: Could flooding in Florida lead to encephalitis or West Nile Virus alerts?

Myers: Any time you get a lot of rain, you'll get standing water. There will be no mosquitoes out there while it's raining, but the larvae are out there. When the rain stops and you have a lot of stagnant water, that's when the mosquitoes will breed. Mosquitoes that haven't bred in a long time will start to hatch when the water stops running off.

So what you need to do in your yard is to make sure the birdbaths are empty, drain out the old kiddie pool, anything that might hold even a quarter inch of water because those mosquitoes will breed in that top layer of water.

Q: Are homes and structures in certain parts of the U.S. better prepared for flooding?

It really depends on the lay of the land. In Florida, you'll get a 8- to 12-inch flood because water runs down a little bit into a lower valley, and maybe it's only 8 inches to a foot lower than the highest point in your neighborhood. That water is not going to come up a foot like it can in West Virginia.

If you get 8 inches in an hour or in a day for that matter in West Virginia, all that water is running down the hill into a very narrow canyon so that water can go up 15 feet, where in Florida that doesn't happen. So are different areas of the country with topography problems that will cause more flooding because of the way the land canyons or funnels the water higher and higher, or, like in Florida, flattens the water out. You get large-scale flooding, but it's only a foot or two deep.

In Florida, most houses are on slabs of concrete so if the water comes in, it's going to come into the home. You can make sure your valuables are elevated but otherwise there is really nothing you can do about water coming into your house. To try to sandbag a flash flood in Florida is nearly impossible because by the time you get the sandbags there to protect your house, the water's already going down because all the land in Florida is basically sand and that water drains and runs right back into the sand in a couple of hours.

One other thing is, if your house has gutters, you can make sure your downspouts -- the metal parts that come off the roof where the water goes down and out -- are attached to the gutters and go out as far as possible, at least a couple of feet away. Otherwise, if it is not attached, or if there is no elbow in the downspout, the water just stops right there and it will get right into your house.

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