As flood waters rise in many West Virginia towns, West Virginia University Extension Service agents and specialists are offering information to help families prepare for and recover from floods.

“Flooding is one of the most common natural disasters but unfortunately, for many families, it’s often one for which they aren’t prepared,” Steve Bonanno, interim director of the WVU Extension Service, said.

Bonanno, a former director of Pleasants County Emergency Services, suggests familiarizing yourself with a plan of action should flooding occur in your area. Then, educate yourself and your family on what to do and what not to do during a flood.

Avoid all nonessential travel. Bonanno points out that most flood-related deaths occur when people are driving to their destination.

“We say it time and time again, but never drive through standing water on roadways,” Bonanno said. “You cannot be certain if the roadbed has washed away, even if you travel that road on a daily basis, there is no guarantee that the road is passable.”

If a flood has already affected your home, you are not out of harm’s way just yet. Contaminated flood waters can pose serious health risks, such as infection.

First, be sure to stay out of buildings that are surrounded by floodwaters, as this could undermine the building’s foundation, possibly causing the building to collapse.

Have a professional to check for gas leaks or electrical system damage.

Dispose of any food that has come into contact with floodwaters. This includes fresh foods, food in glass jars and home-canned goods. Some professionally canned foods may be salvageable but if they are dented or damaged, dispose of them.

When it comes to cleaning household items, exercise caution.

Discard of any items made of porous material, like wood, plastic or rubber. These items cannot be sanitized properly.

Wash other items in a hot detergent solution, using a brush to help remove dirt.

For kitchen items, like dishes and glasses, thoroughly wash and rinse the items. Then immerse them in a chlorine solution of 2 tablespoons of bleach per one gallon of water. Soak the items to sanitize.

“When in doubt, throw it out,” Bonanno said. “If an item that has come into contact with flood waters it’s better to exercise caution than to risk one’s health.”

For more information on flooding resources, visit, or contact your local county office of the WVU Extension Service.



CONTACT: Cassie Waugh, WVU Extension Service

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