(CNN) — Those affected by Hurricane Ida, who return to their damaged homes, face a torrent of problems, if they are lucky enough to have a house standing.
In the most devastated places, “the power outages will last for weeks and possibly months,” the US National Hurricane Center said. “Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months,” he said.
The onslaught of stress, pain, and logistical nightmares can seem overwhelming. But experts say these tips can help victims stay safe, get help, protect their emotional health, and take the first steps toward recovery:
Don’t come home until it’s really safe
Just because the hurricane has passed does not mean that it is safe to drive. Residents should “go home only when local officials say it is safe to do so,” says the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (FEMA).
In the hardest hit areas of Louisiana, many roads remained treacherous even after Ida passed. “A large portion of the travel routes are blocked by downed trees and power lines,” Louisiana State Police said Monday.
“In addition, there is stagnant water in some areas that can deteriorate roads and carry vehicles away,” he added.
State Police said residents can visit 511la.org, call 511, or use the Louisiana 511 smartphone app to check road conditions.
And even after the roads are reopened, drivers must remain vigilant for the remaining dangers, the Louisiana State Police said.
While a roadway may be “open” use extreme caution and only travel when absolutely needed. Numerous hazards remain. Avoid distractions, wear your seatbelt and do not drive impaired. #Ida pic.twitter.com/gCOxiQaZij
– LA State Police (@LAStatePolice) August 31, 2021
Ida’s trail of destruction includes flooding in several states.
“Do not drive in flooded areas: cars or other vehicles will not protect you from floodwaters,” say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC). “They can be swept away or they can remain standing in moving water,” they added.
Exercise extreme caution when arriving home
When it’s safe to go home, try to arrive during daylight hours so you don’t need electricity, the CDC says.
“Walk carefully around the outside of your home to check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage,” says the National Weather Service.
If your home is flooded, “wait to get back in until the professionals tell you it’s safe, with no structural, electrical, or other hazards,” the CDC says.
If the house is damaged, “get out immediately if you hear strange movements or noises,” they add. “Strange noises could mean the building is about to fall,” warns the CDC.
If you must use lighting, bring a battery-powered flashlight, not candles or gas lanterns.
“Turn on your flashlight before entering a vacant building,” advises the National Weather Service. “The battery could produce a spark that could ignite the gas leak, if present,” he warns.
Minimize the risk of electrocution
Flooded homes after Ida’s passage require extra precautions to avoid electrocution.
“If there is standing water in your home and you can turn off the main power from a dry place, then go ahead and turn off the power,” says the CDC.
“If you have to get into standing water to access the main switch, then call an electrician to turn it off. NEVER turn the electricity on or off yourself or use a tool or electrical appliance while standing in the water,” he warns.
In general, “do not wade through flood water, which may contain dangerous disease-causing pathogens, debris, chemicals, debris, and wildlife,” says FEMA’s website. Ready.gov. “Downed or underground power lines can also electrically charge water,” he adds.
Photograph the damage and seek help if necessary
If it’s safe to go inside, don’t start cleaning right away. First, “contact your insurance company and take photos of the house and your belongings,” says the CDC.
Those seeking federal assistance can call 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 1-800-462-7585) or apply at DisasterAssistance.gov.
Residents with flood insurance from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program can start their claim at FloodSmart.gov.
Clean safely and watch out for mold
“If your home has been flooded and has been closed for several days, assume your home has mold,” says the CDC. “You have to dry everything completely, clean the mold and make sure you don’t continue to have a moisture problem,” they explain.
The CDC has a list of ways to eliminate and prevent mold growth, with or without electricity.
Mold can be cleaned by using a mixture of 1 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water. Don’t use the bleach solution indoors – make sure the doors or windows are open, the CDC says.
But anyone with a lung condition, such as asthma or who is immunocompromised, “should not enter buildings with indoor water leaks or mold growth that you can see or smell, even if they don’t have a mold allergy. “says the FEMA website Ready.gov.
“Children should not participate in cleaning up the disaster,” they warn.
The water left over from the flood can contain sewage and other hazards that can be difficult to see.
“Flood water can contain dangerous bacteria from sewage overflow and agricultural and industrial waste,” says the CDC.
“Although skin contact with flood water does not pose a serious health risk by itself, eating or drinking anything contaminated with flood water can cause illness,” they explain.
Don’t succumb to deadly heat
Some of the survivors of Hurricane Ida will be without power for weeks, a life-threatening scenario for those facing extreme heat without air conditioning.
“They have to evacuate. It’s not what they want to do, it’s what they have to do if they want to stay alive,” said retired US Army Lieutenant General Russel Honoré, who led the Task Force in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. , in 2005.
“Maybe there are some resisters who manage to do it,” Honoré told CNN on Tuesday.
“But the elderly and people with children, they just have to go take a vacation from FEMA. Let FEMA give them a voucher for a hotel and have the blessing of being still alive,” he says.
If you are coming home to start the cleaning process or to take care of other tasks, be sure to take in the heat.
“If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and takes your breath away, STOP all activity,” warns the CDC. “Go to a cool or shady area and rest, especially if you feel dizzy, confused, weak or pass out,” he adds.
In the intense heat, it’s also important to drink plenty of fluids “regardless of how active you are,” says the CDC. “Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink,” they say.
Use generators safely and avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
Generators can be immensely useful for victims of powerless storms. They can also be deadly when used incorrectly.
“Carbon monoxide poisoning is a leading cause of death after storms in areas experiencing power outages,” says the National Weather Service.
“Never use a portable generator inside your home or garage,” even if the doors and windows are open.
“Use generators only outdoors, more than 20 feet from your house, doors and windows,” says the Weather Service.
Exercise extreme caution when using gas appliances, as they can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
It is also a good idea to have a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector, as carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless.
Make sure food and water are safe
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible until power returns. If less than four hours have passed, the food is still safe to eat. Otherwise, the food can spoil and cause serious illness.
“When in doubt, throw it out,” says the CDC.
Throw away any food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water, perishable foods that haven’t been properly refrigerated, and anything that doesn’t look, smell, or feel like it should.
If a boil water advisory has been issued in your area, take it seriously. If boiling water is not possible, use bottled water.
But never use contaminated water, whether suspected or confirmed, to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula.
Take care of your emotional health
“Stress, anxiety and other symptoms similar to depression are common reactions after a disaster,” says the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
When logistical nightmares collide with overwhelming emotions (such as those caused by Ida’s passage), don’t try to resist alone. That can prevent your recovery, says the CDC.
“Taking care of your emotional health during an emergency will help you think clearly and react to urgent needs to protect yourself and your family,” says the CDC.
“Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family and your community to recover from a disaster,” they say.
Storm victims can contact SAMHSA’s disaster helpline by calling or texting 1-800-985-5990.
The Helpline “is a national telephone line that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and is dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling to people experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or man-made disaster. by man, “says the SAMHSA website.
“Our staff members provide counseling and support before, during and after disasters and refer people to local disaster-related resources for follow-up care and support.”
CNN’s Theresa Waldrop and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism