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U of M Extension answers questions on flood recovery

Media contact: Catherine Dehdashti, U of M Extension, ced@umn.edu, (612) 625-0237

ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/19/2012) —As communities recover from the recent flooding in northeastern Minnesota, people have many questions. Recovery is a long-term process. University of Minnesota Extension has educational resources available for those with flood-related questions. Citizens can access the most up-to-date information on flood recovery by visiting Extension's website at www.extension.umn.edu/extreme-weather/flood/recover.

Here are examples of some of the questions people have been asking, along with answers from Extension experts:

How do I know when it's safe to re-enter my home?
"Personal safety should be first priority," said Richard Stone, Extension housing specialist. Your home may not be habitable during the cleaning process. Before entering, make sure the gas and electricity are turned off, and inspect the outside of the building for structural damage.

Even after you've done your initial cleaning, it may take a while for things to return to normal. Enclosed walls, floors, and ceilings that have been flooded will need to be opened in order to remove wet insulation, which should be discarded. The entire drying process may take weeks or months and must be thoroughly completed before restoration begins. Putting sheetrock over a wall cavity that has not fully dried can lead to mold growth and the need to re-do the work. A moisture meter can help you determine when walls are dry enough to close up. Drying times can be reduced by circulating heated air over the wet surfaces and using dehumidifiers.

Can I eat produce from my flooded garden? Can I plant there next year?
Floodwaters coming from rivers or streams, or those containing sewage, can contain microbial contaminants that cause illness in humans. "Produce grown for fresh consumption that has come in contact with contaminated floodwater should be discarded," said Extension soil scientist Carl Rosen.
This year's flooding won't prevent next year's gardens, though, Rosen said. The contaminants do not survive in the soil for very long, though a flood event can alter the nutrient content of soil.

Can I still serve canned food that was stored in a flooded basement?
According to Suzanne Driessen, Extension food safety educator, the USDA advises against eating any food that may have come into contact with flood water. Jars cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized. Sediment and debris from flood water that may have become lodged under the cap lips, threads, lugs, crimps, or snap-rings are impossible to remove.

If you have additional questions, Extension's toll free phone services are available. These include the Flood Information Line (1-800-232-9077, email fil@umn.edu) and the AnswerLine (1-800-854-1678). Extension's Flood Information Line is a resource for questions about water, crops, horticulture and climatology issues. Extension's AnswerLine provides answers to household and family-oriented questions, such as cleaning, mildew, and food safety issues.


For more news from U of M Extension, visit www.extension.umn.edu/news or contact Extension Communications at extnews@umn.edu. University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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