Officials: Mold a Danger in Nebraska Flood-Damaged Buildings

July 26, 2010

Like much of the Midwest, Nebraska has suffered severe weather, including flooding, since June 1 and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency are warning Nebraskans that mold may be a danger in recently flooded buildings.

Water-damaged rooms are moist environments ideal for mold to flourish, according to FEMA. People with respiratory problems such as allergies or asthma should not spend time in houses that might contain mold. Mold often is visible as a fuzzy growth or discoloration on surfaces. It usually has a musty, earthy odor.

Those sensitive to mold spores may experience wheezing, difficulty breathing, nasal and sinus congestion, burning and watering eyes, dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or skin irritation.

Mold can cause significant health problems. It is urgent that residents and business owners clean their homes and work environments as quickly as possible and not risk serious, long-lasting health effects.

Federal Public Assistance disaster funds are now available to help local, county and state governments, as well as Tribal Nations, in 53 counties rebuild public property damaged by the recent severe storms, tornadoes and floods that have affected Nebraska since June 1.

Antelope, Arthur, Blaine, Boone, Boyd, Brown, Burt, Cass, Chase, Cherry, Cheyenne, Colfax, Cuming, Custer, Dodge, Douglas, Frontier, Garden, Garfield, Greeley, Harlan, Hayes, Holt, Howard, Keya Paha, Knox, Lincoln, Logan, Loup, Madison, McPherson, Morrill, Nance, Nemaha, Nuckolls, Otoe, Perkins, Phelps, Pierce, Platte, Richardson, Rock, Sarpy, Saunders, Sherman, Sioux, Stanton, Thomas, Valley, Washington, Wayne, Webster and Wheeler counties are now approved for Federal Public Assistance under a declaration approved by President Barack Obama for the state of Nebraska.

Local, state and federal teams have been inspecting disaster-related damage and examining emergency expenses identified by state and local representatives. Preliminary damage assessments estimated the scope of repair work needed and restoration costs.

For approved projects, FEMA will pay 75 percent of the cost. The state of Nebraska and the local organization applying for funding of a specific project will cost-share the remaining 25 percent.

Projects may include debris removal, emergency-services and repair or replacement of damaged roads and bridges. Also addressed are schools, libraries and other public buildings, water control facilities, public utilities and recreational facilities.

Qualified private non-profit organizations also may receive assistance to restore certain kinds of facilities. These include educational, utility, emergency, medical, custodial care and others that provide essential governmental services.

All counties in the State of Nebraska are eligible to apply for assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

Specialists offer the following suggestions to ensure safe, effective cleanup:

  • Have professionals check heating/cooling ducts and wall insulation for mold growth. If the system has mold inside, it will spread mold throughout the house.
  • Wash all items that came in contact with floodwaters with a chlorine bleach solution.
  • Open windows for ventilation and wear boots, rubber gloves and clothing that fully cover arms and legs and use an N-95 rated mask.
  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners.
  • Mix no more than one cup of bleach in one gallon of water.
  • Most antiseptics, including chlorine, are toxic to humans — rinse the skin quickly and thoroughly if there is accidental contact with the solution.
  • Remember, chlorine bleach is no longer effective when the chlorine smell disappears.
  • Use a fan in front of open windows or doors to help with the drying process, but it is important that fans blow outward, rather than inward to avoid spreading the mold.
  • Throw away all moldy items that cannot be thoroughly cleaned. If in doubt, throw it out. This includes carpets, mattresses, upholstered furniture, stuffed animals, pillows, wall coverings and all paper products.
  • Take out any drywall or insulation that has been dampened by floodwater.
  • If there is more than a 10 square foot area of mold in a building, consider using a professional mold clean-up contractor.

The Web site, offers “Flooding Resources for Nebraska Citizens,” a site that includes links to resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Center for Disease Control, Department of Health and Human Services, and other agencies.

FEMA also now offers that allows Web-enabled mobile phone users access to federal Web resources.

Source: FEMA

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