Record Breaking Rainfall Possible This Weekend
The remnants of what was once Hurricane Isaac will begin to affect parts of Illinois late Friday and continue into Sunday. The main threat from the storm will be the potential for extremely heavy rain in much of the state. The latest five day plot from the Hydrologic Prediction Center at NOAA (See below) indicates that in excess of eight inches of rain could fall along a line from near St. Louis to Danville and on into Indiana. Three to five inch rains will be common in most of the state south of Interstate 80. As always, there is some uncertainty to the exact path of the highest rain totals at this time, but the prediction has been very consistent over the last several days and local emergency managers have been taking steps to prepare.
Prepare Your Office: If your office has a basement or is otherwise prone to flooding, now would be a good time to make sure that sump pumps (if any) are operating properly. Valuable items should be removed from the floor and lower shelves if you are in the part of the state affected. If your building is equipped with downspouts and gutters check with your building owners or maintenance staff to make sure they have been cleaned. Make sure that any open windows are tightly closed. If the office is damaged, be sure to notify your regional director as soon as possible.
Events: If you have events scheduled for Saturday or Sunday, keep an eye on the weather and consult with local authorities as to the advisability of cancelling or rescheduling.
Prepare Your Home: Again, if your home has a basement or crawl space make certain that any sump pumps are operational as most have been dormant most of the year. Make sure that all valuable items are up off the floor. Each home is different as to the use of drain plugs and such so make sure you have the necessary materials to prepare your home. Clean gutters and downspouts and consider temporary extensions of downspouts to move water well away from foundations. Make sure that your emergency supply kit is up to date.
Prepare Your Farm: Move animals to high ground or into shelter away from flood prone areas. Move all equipment to higher ground or shelter. Consider turning off vulnerable electrical circuits not being used.
Stay home: Many flooding deaths occur when vehicles are swept off roads. Only a few inches of rapidly flowing water can move a car. Remember the advice, "Turn around, Don't Drown." Never drive into standing water on streets and highways. Unless otherwise instructed, remaining at home is the safest course of action.
What if the worst happens? If your basement floods, never wade into the water until electricity has been turned off. You may think that all outlets are at a safe level, but appliances and equipment with electrical circuits may be flooded. In addition, many of us do not know where hidden electrical service may be behind drywall. As enticing as it might be, do not allow children or pets to play in flood water outside. In addition to the threat of being swept away, it is possible that sewage and other contaminants may be present. Once the water recedes, take your time before replacing drywall and paneling. Allow the studs and other framing to thoroughly dry. Wash with a mild bleach solution if necessary. Have electrical circuits examined by a professional electrician. To avoid future mold problems, it is often best to discard flood soaked carpet, padding, upholstered furniture, paper and cloth items, etc. If cleaning is preferred consult information posted on the Extension web site at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/disaster/ or in the flood areas of the websites of the Extension Disaster Education Network, www.eden.lsu.edu, or eXtension at www.extension.org .
Take photos of all damaged items before disposal.
If there is widespread flooding in your community, contact Rick Atterberry on campus for free copies of First Steps to Flood Recovery, a handy compilation of best practices fact sheets.
What about the drought? Officials at the National Weather Service observe that the drought conditions will actually exacerbate flash flooding. Ground that is dry and hard will not allow the water to soak in, at least initially, thus contributing to rapid runoff and flash flooding. In addition, structural engineers say that foundations surrounded by dry, cracked earth or where the dry soil has actually shrunk away may allow more water than usual to come in contact with the foundation wall leading to leaks and potential cracking. Some homeowners have reported settling of their homes, plaster cracks, ill-fitting doors and windows, and other problems during the drought. Those symptoms may continue once moisture returns to the soil, especially if the change is sudden.
Stay alert: Be sure to check local media over the long weekend for the latest information and make certain that your NOAA All-Hazards (Weather) radio is operational.