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What You Need to Know After Historic Flooding in South Florida – NBC 6 South Florida

Communities in South Florida are reeling after severe flooding inundated several neighborhoods Wednesday. Many were left wondering what to do and how to help.

The flooding damaged several homes, stalled cars, prompted response from officials, and canceled classes after storms soaked some areas in more than a foot and a half of water. And the rain isn’t done yet.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions during this time that will hopefully provide some reprieve from the effects of the storms.

How do I spot damage in a flooded vehicle and avoid buying one?

The recent floods not only caused property damage, but also left countless cars underwater. While many of those vehicles will be deemed total losses, some may end up in the used car market where buyers may purchase them without knowing.

“Not every vehicle that’s been involved in a flood gets reported to Carfax,” said Eddie Garces with Carfax. “There’s no law that mandates or obligates the seller to report.”

Carfax provides vehicle data to individuals and businesses. Garces said when a vehicle floods and the driver has full coverage, their insurance company will report the damage, but sometimes, drivers aren’t covered and decide to clean up the car themselves and resell it without reporting it.

“This is definitely a safety hazard because a flooded car presents hidden damage that could affect the braking system, the airbag system, the computer system that really warns the driver,” Garces said. “So, this is not just a financial headache or problem, this is also a safety issue.”

A tropical storm system triggered hundreds of flight delays and cancellations.

Although the owner may clean it up well before putting the car on the market, there are ways to spot flood damage.

“You want to look at is here on the computer module … where all the circuits are. Make sure that there’s no rust, that there’s no dirt, that there is no mud in there,” Garces said. “If there is, that’s a sign that this vehicle was involved in a flood.

Humidity in the dashboard or headlights is also a clear indicator of water damage, as well as mud and debris in the compartment where the spare tire is stored. When checking the interior of the vehicle, Garces said to look underneath the pedals.

“If there’s rusted screws and bolts, especially underneath the pedals, the accelerator, the brake … if you see that there’s some wiring that’s also corroded,” he said. “And even on the side panels of the doors, if you see a waterline that they weren’t able to clean out, that’s a good sign.”

Before buying a car, experts recommend having a trusted certified mechanic look at it. Carfax also has a free tool you can use to see if the car you’re getting ready to buy has a flood report. Simply go to carfax.com/flood and enter the VIN number.

What should I do if the battery in my electric vehicle got wet?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says batteries in hybrid and electric vehicles are highly corrosive and should not be exposed to standing water.

Flooded vehicles may have high voltage and short circuits that can shock and cause fires.

Do not park a damaged vehicle with a lithium-ion battery in a garage or within 50 feet of your house or other structure, another vehicle, or combustibles.

If you suspect your battery has been damaged, contact your dealer.

How do I clean out my flooded home?

It’s the difficult task that many South Florida homeowners are now dealing with. Here are some tips you should consider to remain safe.

The first thing you should remember is that mold can grow really quickly. Remove any materials that are soft and wet as soon as possible. That includes rugs, blankets, clothing and sofas and other furniture.

Make sure your electricity is turned off before you enter the home since you could be at risk for shock if you touch anything. Open all the windows and doors to try to air out the house.

Disaster clean-up expert Meegan Taddonio of R-T-K Environment Group said appliances need to be treated carefully.  

“It’s really dangerous if there is standing water inside a home to try and turn the lights on. Or do anything that could trigger a current, and of course water being a transmitter for that,” Taddonio said. “So we advise if the power is off, don’t touch appliances, don’t open the fridge. Don’t try to to turn the lights on.”

How do I test for mold?

It’s the invisible danger that lingers and time is critical. If the floods brought water into your homes, you might be wondering how to test for mold.

Mike Odeh with ServiceMaster Restore said to keep in mind what you can’t see with the naked eye.

“You say, oh, we have a little bit of water, we can mop it up and it’s fine,” he said. “But it’s not your structure, your baseboards, your walls. If you have insulation, that’s affected as well.”

Residents can use moisture meters after a storm — they can be picked up at local hardware stores, but they’re not always accurate since they detect moisture and not mold.

So residents should call for a water damage, remediation company to test for moisture so they can help ventilate to get ahead of the mold.

“A lot of times you have to ventilate and you have to properly mitigate, otherwise you’re going to get secondary damage like bacterial growth that can turn into mold,” Odeh said.

What do I do if my car has been flooded?

There have been images of countless cars stranded or underwater due to the recent flooding in South Florida.

Many are wondering what they should do if their car’s been flooded.

Heavy flooding in North Miami Beach Wednesday afternoon.

Firstly, document the damage by taking pictures. Be sure to file an insurance claim right away.

The sooner the vehicle can be inspected and dried out, the less damage it will sustain.

AAA also advises against starting a flooded vehicle until a qualified mechanic has done an inspection. Keep in mind that trying to start the engine with water inside may lead to additional damage.

Having the right insurance coverage also makes a difference in these cases.

“Car insurance in the case of a flood is going to be covered under comprehensive. So it’s very important that whenever we buy a policy for car insurance, we have full coverage,” said AAA spokesperson Andre Khouri. “It means collision, comprehensive. Flood is an act of god. So it’s covered under comprehensive. If you don’t have the comprehensive coverage, the insurance company is not going to pay for the damage of your car.”

What should I do if I have debris?

If the recent storms have left debris in your area, there are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Do not place debris in trash bags.
  • Debris should be placed curbside without blocking the roadways or storm drains.
  • Pick-up zone areas in Fort Lauderdale are between the sidewalk and the roadway.
  • Be sure to keep debris away from storm drains and driveways.

When and how does FEMA step in?

When disaster strikes, help can come in different ways, including from the federal government. So when and how does FEMA step in?

If you had at least 12 inches of water or more inside of your home, you can call and report it to the number 954-828-8000.

Once government officials review and determine the extend of the disaster, the governor decides if the state has enough resources to respond. If not, the state should submit a major disaster declaration request to the White House.

The president will review the request and decide if federal assistance is needed. If the request is approved, FEMA can provide funding, personnel, and supplies to help the communities affected.

The Florida Director of Emergency Management said the state has already made an official request to FEMA for a damage assessment. FEMA is expected to be in town in the coming days to determine if the extent of the damage meets the treshold to provide assistance.

If it does, the director said he will ask the governor to make the disaster declaration request.

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