Stay out of the floodwaters: CDC Cautions Against Unprotected Exposure

Stay out of the floodwaters: CDC Cautions Against Unprotected Exposure
This photo from the Nebraska Department of Transportation shows floodwaters north of Fremont and west of Nickerson.

FREMONT – Historic flooding is taking place throughout the region, and the Center for Disease Control wants to remind you: floodwaters are no place to play.

Last night, seven first responders had to be hospitalized for hypothermia after being plunged into floodwaters when their boats capsized near Fremont. Due to the mixture of rainfall, snowmelt and river water, these floods are extremely frigid. If you must interact with floodwaters to move through them to safety or to clean up an area that has been okayed for reentry by emergency authorities, make sure to wear waterproof boots and warm layers.

Never drive into flooded roads. It takes less than three inches of fast moving water to carry off a car or light SUV, and just four inches to carry off a truck.

Floodwaters can be highly contaminated and contain many things that may harm health. No one can know exactly what is in floodwater at any given point in time. Floodwater can contain:

  • Downed power lines
  • Human, livestock and wild animal waste
  • Household or industrial hazardous waste
  • Coal ash waste that can contain carcinogenic compounds such as arsenic, chromium, and mercury
  • Physical objects such as lumber, vehicles, and debris
  • Wild animals such as rodents and snakes

Exposure to contaminated floodwater can cause:

  • Wound infections
  • Skin rash
  • Gastrointestinal illness
  • Tetanus
  • Leptospirosis (though not common)

It is important to protect yourself from exposure to floodwater regardless of the source of contamination. The best way to protect yourself is to stay out of the water.

If you come in contact with floodwater:

  • Wash the area with soap and clean water as soon as possible. If you don’t have soap or water, use alcohol-based wipes or sanitizer.
  • Take care of wounds and seek medical attention if necessary.
  • Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent before reusing them.

If you must enter floodwater, wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles.