CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Today, Bremer, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Floyd, and Worth counties were added to President Clinton's July 22 disaster declaration for Iowa. This brings the number of Iowa counties eligible for federal aid to nine. The other four counties are Black Hawk, Butler, Jones, and Woodbury.
These nine counties are designated eligible for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Individual Assistance Program. Individuals and businesses may apply for a variety of programs including grants to help pay for temporary housing, minor home repairs, and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will also be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.
"Iowa residents who sustained damage from this violent weather should register for assistance by calling FEMA's toll-free number," said State Coordinating Officer Steve Zimmerman. The number is 1-800-462-9029. TTY service is available at 1-800-462-7585 for anyone who is hearing or speech impaired.
The registration numbers are available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, until further notice.
Renters and homeowners should assume that anything touched by floodwater is contaminated. Mud left by floodwater can contain chemicals from sources as varied as your garden chemicals to a neighbor's septic tank to the oven cleaner you stored in the kitchen. It is important to clean everything touched by floodwaters as quickly as possible. Always wash your hands with soap and clean water after working in the area.
Cleanup carries its own risks. In addition to the potential contamination from floodwaters, there are other dangers. Before entering a building, inspect it. Be on the lookout for structural problems. Walls, floors, doors, windows, and foundations may have been weakened and damaged by moving and soaking floodwaters. Check for loose plaster, weakened floors, and ceilings that could fall.
Protect yourself. Wear sturdy shoes, long pants, and gloves. Carry battery-operated flashlights or lanterns to examine interior damage. Do not use matches or other open flames because gas may be trapped inside.
Make sure electricity is turned off. Call your utility company. Just because breakers are tripped, it doesn't mean that electric current isn't still coming to the building. Keep the power off until the electrical system is inspected. If you see sparks or broken and frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, call an electrician. Unplug appliances and lamps, remove light bulbs and remove the cover plates of wall switches and outlets that got wet. If local building codes allow you to disconnect switches and outlets from wiring, do so and replace the switches and outlets. If your building inspector says you cannot disconnect the wiring, pull the switches and outlets forward, away from the wall, and leave them connected.
Take photographs of flood damage to both the building and its contents for insurance claims. If possible, take pictures that show the high-water marks left on walls as well as other damage.
Watch out for animals, especially snakes, that may have been swept into your property. Use a stick to poke any debris.
Throw away food that has come in contact with floodwaters, including unopened jars.
In addition, homes and apartments that have flood damage are likely to have damp areas where molds, mildews, and other fungal organisms thrive. Since molds and related organisms may cause respiratory problems, it is important to use proper procedures in cleaning flood-damaged homes. A combination of household bleach and soap or detergent can be used to wash down walls, floors, and other mold-contaminated areas. This will eliminate fungal problems and their inherent dangers. Follow directions on containers and pay careful attention to all warnings on labels.
Don't let floodwater ...