News Releases


June 17, 2014

What to Do if Flood Waters Impact Your Home

BROOKINGS, S.D. - As flooding continues to impact homes throughout portions of southeast South Dakota, Lavonne Meyer, SDSU Extension Food Safety Field Specialist, with the help of the USDA, provides answers to frequently asked questions on keeping families safe and healthy if flood waters enter their home.

"Along with all the physical damage, flood water brings with it hidden pathogens and we don't know what is there. If flood waters enter the home, you need to be proactive to keep your family safe," Meyer said.

Q. Flood waters covered our food stored on shelves and in cabinets. What can I keep and what should I throw out? 
A. Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
Food in all-metal cans can be salvaged if you follow these steps: 
* Remove the labels, if they are the removable kind, since they can harbor dirt and bacteria.
* Thoroughly wash the cans or retort pouches with soap and water, using hot water if it is available.
* Brush or wipe away any dirt or silt.
* Rinse the cans or retort pouches with water that is safe for drinking, if available, since dirt or residual soap will reduce the effectiveness of chlorine sanitation.
* Then, sanitize them by immersion in one of the two following ways: ◦Place in water and allow the water to come to a boil and continue boiling for 2 minutes, or
* Place in a freshly made solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available) for 15 minutes.
* Air-dry cans or retort pouches for a minimum of 1 hour before opening or storing.
* If the labels were removable, then re-label your cans or retort pouches, including the expiration date (if available), with a marker.
* Food in reconditioned cans or retort pouches should be used as soon as possible, thereafter.
* Any concentrated baby formula in reconditioned, all-metal containers must be diluted with clean, drinking water.
Q. How should I clean my pots, pans, dishes, and utensils? 
A. Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils (including can openers) with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available). 

Q. How should I clean my countertops? 
A. Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available). Allow to air-dry. 
Q. My home was flooded and I am worried about the safety of the drinking water. What should I do? 
A. Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters if it is available. *If you don't have bottled water, you should boil water to make sure it is safe. Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool, and store it in clean containers with covers.

* If you can't boil water, you can disinfect it using household bleach. Bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for disinfection. Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers. 
* If you have a well that had been flooded, the water should be tested and disinfected after flood waters recede. If you suspect that your well may be contaminated, contact your local or state health department or agriculture extension agent for specific advice.
Q. What do I do if there has been a power outage? 
A. If there has been a power outage in your area, wait until power is restored before opening the freezer door. Each time the door is opened, the interior temperature increases and decreases time foods will hold safely without power. In most cases, food in a full freezer will stay frozen about two days. Food in a freezer that is only half full may stay frozen up to one day. A freezer full of meat will not warm up as fast as a freezer full of baked food. 

If food is safe to eat, it is safe to refreeze. When you find that the freezer is off, check the temperature in two or three locations. Then, take a look at the packages of food. If foods still contain ice crystals and/or if the freezer is 40°F or lower and has been at that temperature no longer than one to two days, food that was safe when it was originally frozen should still be safe. It can be refrozen or cooked and eaten. 

For more information on using chlorine bleach refer to the iGrow publication "Sanitizing with Bleach." This includes easy-to-follow practical tips for using bleach in various situations including flooding of homes. To locate this publication search the iGrow Food Safety webpage located on 

To talk to a specialist for answers concerning additional home and family questions, contact Answer Line, a free service of SDSU Extension at 1-888-393-6336.  

What to do if Your Basement is Damp or Flooded

BROOKINGS, S.D. - If the recent rain storms left your basement damp or flooded, it is important that you deal with the moisture soon to prevent mold and mildew from moving in, said Marjorie Zastrow, SDSU Extension Nutrition Field Specialist.
"The most important thing for homeowners to do now is to check for dampness or water seepage throughout potentially affected areas of your home, particularly storage areas and room corners. Remove items which are dampened/saturated with water or moisture," Zastrow said.
Zastrow says homeowners can begin removing the water themselves using a wet vacuum. If the basement is carpeted, she says they may not be able to get all the moisture up unless they remove both the carpet and pad. She suggests hanging the carpet outdoors weather permitting; padding is often too dense to thoroughly dry without altering its integrity so it is often replaced.
If there was sewage seepage or back up refer to the SDSU Extension AnswerLine at 1-888-393-6336 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST for specific clean-up methods and precautions.
If the basement was flooded or water wicked up or ran down the wall(s), homeowners may need to remove a portion of the wall board and insulation to allow the wall cavity to thoroughly dry. It is generally recommended that the sheet rock be removed 12 inches above the saturation line.
"Once the water is gone, it is important that you do a thorough job cleaning and dehumidifying," Zastrow said.  "This may involve the removal of items such as flooring; trim boards, items stored in closets and dressers."
Once items are removed, Zastrow says to thoroughly clean the walls and floor with an all purpose, non-sudsing or commercial cleaner.
"Cleaning not only removes the mold spores, but will remove the food (dirt, grim) which mold spores feed on," she said.
When washing walls, wash and rinse from the bottom up.
 If you choose, you can sanitize, but sanitation will not clean the area.  To sanitize, use ¼ cup bleach/1 gallon water for areas which have been cleaned, and up to 1½ cups bleach/1 gallon water for areas which could not be cleaned.  Be sure to test the bleach on the area to know that it will not damage the surface.  The bleach water should remain on the area 15 minutes before removing.  Lastly, never mix bleach with any product containing ammonia as a caustic gas can be formed.
In the day's to come you may notice the growth of mold. Molds can be detected by sight, or a damp musty odor. It is generally recommended that if you see mold or have the damp musty odor that you expend your resources to deal with the mold, rather than specifically identify the type mold you have. "Whether it is black, blue, green, orange or yellow; mold can cause health issues for many," she said. 
40 to 60 percent humidity is ideal
After the area is cleaned, it is critical that it be dehumidified.
"Mildew will grow in an environment with 60 percent or more humidity," Zastrow said. "The recommended range of humidity for living spaces is 40-60 percent."
If you have a large space, or a number of rooms, you may need to operate more than one dehumidifier.
"You can operate fans to slightly circulate the air, but the fan itself will not remove moisture from the environment," she said. Also, be cautious about opening windows, with the ground saturation there is likely more moisture outside than inside; so if you are operating a dehumidifier you are likely losing ground by opening windows.
As you replace items, be sure to allow for good air circulation.
"Having closets packed, or use of cardboard boxes for storage only contributes poor air circulation and holding of dampness which will contribute to mold growth.  Also, keeping furniture away from the walls and opening up closet doors will aid in good air circulation," Zastrow said.
If textile items were dampened or have a musty odor, it is recommended that they be washed to avoid mildew growth.  Damp or wet items left in a pile provide an ideal environment for mold growth. Flood soaked or damp items generally can be washed.
"Be careful not to overload the washer, use a heavy liquid duty detergent and add 1 cup of liquid chlorine bleach per wash load if you choose to sanitize items," she said.
When washing clothes, Zastrow recommends filling the washer first with water and using the hottest water safe for the fabric. Add the detergent and bleach to the water before the clothing. For fabrics such as wool and silk, or those with bright colors, use a non-chlorine bleach.  Some clothing articles may recommend dry cleaning.  For dry cleanable items, damp rinse the item with cold water and then take to the dry cleaner.
If clothes are wet or mud soaked, she says they should be rinsed in a bucket/tub before washing to remove any chunks of debris so the washer is not damaged.  They may need to be washed two times.
"If a home washer is available, they can be rinsed and spun out, skipping the first washing step, then followed by a pre-soak and wash," Zastrow said.
As you are cleaning your space which has been flooded or has had moisture seepage, you may also consider washing the wall d├ęcor items with an appropriate all purpose detergent and window treatments with appropriate washing methods. For fabric blinds refer to the care label for washing instructions.
She cautions homeowners from returning items to the basement too soon as it may take a few weeks to several months to dry your basement out and control the humidity.
"Moving all the belongings in too soon can inhibit the drying process and contribute to mold/mildew growth," she said.
For more information on flooding clean up and contact AnswerLine at 1-888-393-6336 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST or visit iGrow. 

Governor activates National Guard to assist in flood response operations

RAPID CITY, S.D. - Gov. Dennis Daugaard activated more than 120 Soldiers today from the South Dakota National Guard to assist the state in flood response operations in southeast South Dakota.
More than 120 Soldiers from the Guard have been assigned to assist state and local emergency management officials in response to the rise in water levels along the Big Sioux River. 
The SDNG is currently moving personnel, dump trucks and support equipment to Union County to assist with levee construction. If required, the Guard may also help with rescue and evacuation, sandbagging and traffic control missions as well.  
Gov. Daugaard declared a state of emergency and opened the State Emergency Operations Center early Tuesday morning. The EOC has been working with SDNG officials to coordinate appropriate levels of response. 
"The South Dakota National Guard is always willing to support our state in response to emergencies such as this," said Maj. Gen Tim Reisch, adjutant general of the SDNG. "In fact, it's one of the missions we're most proud of."
The SDNG responded to flooding in the Pierre/Fort Pierre and Dakota Dunes areas  during the summer of 2011 with more than 1,900 Soldiers and Airmen providing personnel and resources for filling, transporting and distributing sandbags, levee construction, providing security and operating traffic control points, as well as helping stranded citizens threatened by flood waters.


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