First, check a building’s structural strength. If the building has moved, shifted or twisted, it may not be safe to enter. Check if the roof and walls are straight or bowed. Check the foundation, sill, plate, roof and walls for damage. Look for connections or joints that have separated. If the building has extensive damage, tearing it down and starting with a new building probably will be less expensive than attempting to repair the damaged structure.
- After the water subsides, clean and dry out the building as much as possible. This can include using a sump pump, mops, brooms and brushes, and fans and/or natural ventilation.
- Floors probably will be covered with layers of silt and mud. This will need to be removed, and that is easier to do before the mud or silt dries.
- When the wood is dry, inspect laminated woods, such as plywood, that have been immersed in water to be sure laminations still are bonded together firmly. Check nails to determine whether they are secure.
- If the building was insulated, the wet insulation must be removed. Floodwaters often will leave absorbent material with a foul odor that is difficult to remove. When checking the insulation, expect it to be wet above the high-water level because of the material’s wicking action.
- If the interior wall sheathing is drywall, it will need to be replaced. Usually the interior sheathing in the out-buildings will be wood, which can be dried. After the sheathing and insulation are removed, inspect the wall studs, sills and plates for structural damage. Damaged components will need to be repaired or replaced.
- Thoroughly clean milking equipment, grain augers, ventilation fans and other items that were immersed in the floodwaters to remove grit or other contaminants.
- Clean, dry and lightly oil all metal tools to prevent rusting. Power tools with motors need to be reconditioned by the original manufacturer or its approved representative, or replaced. Floodwaters leave deposits in motors that may cause electrical faults, creating a safety hazard.
- Animals housed in mechanically ventilated buildings may need to be moved to prevent acute exposure to hazardous gases.
- Inspect wiring and plumbing for damage. All breaker panel boards, breakers, fuses, disconnect switches, controllers, receptacles, switches, light fixtures and electric heaters that have been submerged generally must be replaced. Check with an electrician.
- Do not turn on the power to a flooded structure until it has been inspected and a licensed electrical contractor or electrical inspector has determined it is safe.
- All electrical equipment, electric motors and other similar equipment such as appliances that have been submerged need to be reconditioned by the original manufacturer or its approved representative, or replaced. Electrical wiring may require replacement, depending on the type of wire or cable and its use. Splices and terminations must be checked to make sure they comply with the National Electrical Code.
- If you are using a well for your water supply, test the water to determine if it is safe for human or livestock consumption. See Flooded Well – Stop Use, Disinfect, Test
- If you’re using a rural water system, check for breaks or leaks in the supply and distribution pipes. Flushing all your water lines after the flood also is a good idea.
Fuel and Oil Spills
- Report fuel spills to the WI Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-943-0003 and your insurance company.
- Ventilate to reduce vapors that are combustible and hazardous to your health.
- Wear rubber gloves, overshoes and a proper respirator because exposure to fuel, oil and chemicals can cause health issues.
- Use absorbent materials to collect the oil or fuel.
- Discard porous materials that are impossible to clean.
- Use products intended for petroleum removal to clean concrete. Structural wood can be cleaned using products specifically designed for petroleum removal, but removing the petroleum product adequately may not be possible if it has soaked into the wood.
- Remove impacted soil.
- For cleanup and disposal details, contact the WI Department of Health Services.
Flooded Grain Bins
- Grains swell when wet, so bin damage is likely. Bolts can shear or holes elongate. Look for signs such as stretched caulking seals, misaligned doors or similar structural problems.
- Electric wiring, controls and fans exposed to water need to be evaluated and possibly reconditioned or replaced. Do not energize wet components. Be sure the power is off before touching any electrical components of flooded systems.
- Salvage wet feed and grain as soon as possible. Both will begin to heat and mold very quickly, leading to spoilage as well as the possibility of spontaneous combustion. Get the wet grain to a dryer quickly if possible. This is the surest way to save wet grain.
- Carcasses must be disposed of as soon as reasonably possible.
- Composting carcasses is an effective management tool that kills pathogens, reduces volume and transforms the animal into a soil amendment.
- Bury a carcass 4 feet above the water table and cover it with 4 feet of fill. Mound the soil to shed water. Avoid sandy or gravelly areas, or areas within 10 feet of bedrock. The site must be a minimum of 200 horizontal feet from surface water.
- Incinerating a carcass must be done in an approved incinerator.
- Haul carcasses or animal parts only in vehicles or containers that are leakproof and covered.
- Learn more with Animal Carcass Disposal Options.
Livestock Care After a Flood
- You may need to move dairy cows to a neighbor’s milking unit, use natural instead of mechanical ventilation and feed by hand if your buildings are not usable.
- Take special precautions against flood-related accidents or diseases in poultry and livestock. Give animals extra care, particularly if they have been stranded by floodwaters and have been off regular feeding schedules. Watch for signs of flood-related diseases, such as lameness; fever; difficulty breathing; muscle contractions; or swelling of the shoulders, chest, back, neck or throat. Be prepared to contact a veterinarian if you spot trouble.
- If grazing cattle swallow storm debris such as nails, wire, fence staples or other metal, the animal can die. Putting magnets into cattle’s stomachs is the best way to protect them from “hardware disease.” You can administer stomach magnets with a balling gun, which often is used to administer pills. You can get magnets from your veterinarian or animal health products supplier.
- If you have a feed mill, grinder-mixer, total mixed ration mixer or forage harvester equipped with a magnet, make sure the magnet is in place and working properly.
- See more in “Maintaining Livestock Health After a Flood” HERE www.ag.ndsu.edu/flood/farmranch/maintaining-livestock-health-after-a-flood.
- Wear appropriate personal protective equipment and clothing while clearing debris from fields.
- Have soil tested because flooding may have affected soil nutrients.
- Avoid operations on wet soils and limit load weights to reduce soil compaction.
- Flooded fields may be slow to dry, and crops may be planted late. For information, see Replanting or Late Planting Crops.