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Indoor Air Quality Alert: Hurricane Idalia

What is the location of the flooding?

Flooding in the Southeastern United States is being caused by Tropical Storm Idalia, which initially made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane in the Big Bend region of Florida on Thursday, August 30, 2023 (1)(2)(3). It has since moved northeastward through Georgia and into South Carolina and North Carolina.

As Idalia is downgraded to a tropical storm, flooding continues to affect multiple areas along the Southeastern coast of the United States, including the Gulf Coast of Florida, southern Georgia, and parts of the Carolinas (4).

Which cities or areas are affected by the flooding?

The flooding is affecting various cities and areas along the Southeastern coast, including:

Flooding is impacting various other towns, neighborhoods, and regions in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. There are widespread power outages in all four states, boil water advisories in six Florida counties, and thousands of damaged homes.

At least one man has died in Georgia and there has been one unconfirmed death related to the hurricane in Florida.

What is the current status of the flooding?

Tropical Storm Idalia is flooding the southeast through heavy rainfall, storm surge, and high tides. The storm has caused widespread flooding, downed trees, power outages, and damaged homes and businesses. It is expected to continue tracking northeastward, maintaining its strength and posing a risk of life-threatening flooding, particularly in areas prone to storm surge and heavy rainfall.

Are there any evacuation orders or alerts in place?

Evacuation orders were issued in several areas, and rescue efforts are underway to assist affected residents.

Florida: President Joe Biden declared an emergency in Florida due to Tropical Storm Idalia, authorizing Federal assistance to supplement state and local efforts (5). Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also declared a state of emergency in 46 counties, spanning from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast (6).

Evacuation notices were issued in 21 counties with mandatory orders for some residents in eight of those counties, primarily for people in low-lying and coastal areas, mobile homes, recreational vehicles, and vulnerable individuals.

Georgia: Governor Brian P. Kemp issued a State of Emergency for all of Georgia in preparation for Hurricane Idalia (7). The storm system is expected to move through the state, bringing heavy rainfall and damaging winds throughout Southeast Georgia.

The State Operations Center was activated to coordinate storm preparations and response. The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA/HS) remained open and was monitoring the storm's progress.

North Carolina: North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency in advance of the storm and emphasized the importance of monitoring Hurricane Idalia's course (8).

South Carolina: South Carolina Governor Henry McMasters declared a State of Emergency in on August 29th in preparation for Hurricane Idalia's arrival (9).

How can I protect myself from mold after flooding?

The first 48 to 72 hours after flooding is a critical time to dry out impacted areas. It’s important to take steps to prevent mold after a flood.

  • Before entering a flooded area, make sure it is safe and free from electrical hazards or structural damage.
  • Use protective gear: wear gloves, goggles, and a KN95/FFP2 mask to minimize exposure to mold spores.
  • If there is still standing water, remove it as quickly as possible. Use pumps, wet-dry vacuums, or buckets to extract the water.
  • Open windows and doors to facilitate air circulation and use fans, dehumidifiers, and HVAC systems to help dry the space. This step is crucial within the first 24-48 hours after flooding to prevent mold growth.
  • Remove and discard any items that have been severely damaged by floodwater and cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. This includes carpets, upholstered furniture, mattresses, and any other porous materials.
  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces with a detergent or cleaner suitable for mold remediation. Use a solution of 1.5 cups of bleach mixed with one gallon of water to disinfect nonporous surfaces. Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products, as the fumes are toxic.
  • Maintain an indoor relative humidity (RH) of 35-50%. High humidity promotes mold growth, so consider using dehumidifiers in damp areas.
  • Run a high-performance air purifier for mold, both during and after the mold removal work.
  • If the flooding and mold damage are extensive, consider contacting professionals specializing in mold remediation to ensure proper cleanup and restoration.

Remember, mold can pose health risks, so it's important to take these steps promptly and thoroughly. If you experience persistent mold-related health issues or have concerns about extensive mold growth, consult with a medical professional or a mold remediation specialist.

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