For many homeowners, the real work begins after the hurricane has passed.
Depending on how hard your property has been hit, full recovery can take as long as 14 months, with the peak repairs occurring three months after a storm. Hurricane preparedness may help you see less property damage. However, the steps you take immediately after returning home will have a significant impact on how fast you’re able to recover.
As building professionals, we’ve seen the damage hurricanes can do to coastal cities in North Carolina like Wilmington, and the inland flooding that can occur throughout the state, reaching to Raleigh and Charlotte.
As you get ready to face the aftermath, this hurricane recovery checklist can help you understand what steps you should take to protect your home immediately after a natural disaster.
Remember: Don’t go home until it’s safe. Follow designated roadways. Don’t enter a building if it could collapse. Document property damage for insurance companies.
1. Check Utilities
A problem with your home’s utilities can cause risks to human life and lasting damage to your home. This makes it a top priority to check utilities before doing anything else.
Typically, a property will be inspected by authorities before you’re allowed back in, but it’s always best to be extra cautious during hurricane recovery. Damaged electrical wiring, a gas leak, or an unsecured propane tank can create a very dangerous situation. You know your property better than anyone, so even after authorities give you the green light, thoroughly check your utility systems for potential problems.
- Gas: The flammability of gas means even the smallest spark can cause a big disaster. Keep a battery-powered flashlight in your supply kit to use while inspecting the property, and turn the flashlight on before entering your home so any sparks don’t ignite if there is a gas leak. If you suspect a gas leak, you shouldn’t attempt to locate or troubleshoot it yourself. Step outside and call your utility company immediately.
- Electricity: Don’t enter a flooded building unless the power is turned off and a professional has disconnected the electrical meter from its socket. Water is a conductor of electricity, and during a flood, the only way to ensure there’s no current coming into your house is to completely disconnect the system. And as always, use generators safely to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning or electrocution.
2. Address Any Water in Your House
Storm damage can cause various water issues throughout your property, and water is a top concern because mold can start to grow on a damp surface within 24 to 48 hours.
There are three main tasks to addressing water and flooding after a hurricane:
- Assess the Problem: Carefully walk through your property to identify where you had any flooding and what state each room is in. Watch out for slippery floors and loose boards.
- Stop the Flow: Even after the weather event has passed, water could still be entering your home, increasing the damage. If water is leaking from your pipes, turn off the main line. If water is coming into your basement from outdoor puddling, create a drainage solution that diverts the water to a storm drain.
- Resolve the Issue: For standing water, the goal is to remove water as quickly as possible to prevent mold growth. It may take some time to thoroughly dry out the building, but your sump pump can do most of the work for you. If your home had significant basement flooding, you may need to remove water gradually to preserve the integrity of your foundation. FEMA recommends removing about one-third of the water each day so you maintain equal pressure between the inside of your basement and the saturated ground surrounding it.
If your basement is flooded, schedule a free inspection with certified professionals and get a full diagnosis.
3. Inspect Your Structure
Your home was likely inspected for safety before you were allowed to enter it. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t find structural issues. Even if they don’t pose an imminent threat, identifying problems can help you protect your home and preserve your investment.
- Weakened walls
- Roof damage
- Foundation damage
- Chimney cracks
- Sagging floors
- Cracks in walls
- Plumbing pipes that have been displaced
- Windows and doors that have shifted alignment
High winds can be especially damaging to a property’s structural integrity. Consider the scenario where strong directional winds shifted the structural load of the building. You may only notice a jammed door and a crack in the ceiling, but those symptoms could indicate that the structure needs to be reinforced or that you have underlying foundation issues.
If your home is on well water, you may need to get the well pumped and tested. And don’t use the faucets or toilets until the authorities say the water and sewage lines are intact.
4. Prepare for Gross Stuff
A major storm can cause significant disruption, and it’s important to be careful and be prepared when you’re returning home after a hurricane hits.
Assume that all floodwaters are contaminated with bacteria, pathogens, or chemicals. After Hurricane Florence, the flooding in eastern North Carolina resulted in thousands of dead chickens and hogs, along with the overflowing lagoons of pig waste into water supplies and rivers.
There’s also the problem of wildlife moving into your home or backyard. A pile of debris could be home to dangerous creepy crawlies, and you could find raccoons, snakes or alligators that have remained in your home even after the water has receded. Large colonies of fire ants have also been spotted in NC floodwaters after a hurricane.
You may also find that during the storm, sewage backed up through your plumbing system into your home. During previous hurricanes, there have been large-scale wastewater overflows in the Raleigh and Piedmont areas, so even if you are inland, your home could still suffer the effects of a storm.
Take precaution during cleanup and inspection. If sewage is involved, wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles. Disinfect anything that’s had contact with floodwaters. Thoroughly wash hands and any skin that’s touched floodwaters to stop bacterial spread.
Find out how Tar Heel Basement Systems can help you protect your property against flood damage with a free inspection and repair estimate from our basement and foundation experts.