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Posted on: May 19, 2020

May Flooding Event Declared Disaster by U.S. Small Business Administration


Last updated: July 23, 2020
From May 18-May 19, the Central Ohio region was hit with an extreme rainfall event, with a recorded 3.7 inches of rainfall in less than 24 hours. Whitehall saw more rainfall in six hours than during the entire flooding event that occurred in March. Both the March and May events have been declared a natural disaster by the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

Next Steps

  1. Report Your Flooding: The City is collecting data on the flooding for any future storm water mitigation studies that may occur. The data will also be shared with Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security as they report the flooding for potential disaster relief. Report your flooding >>

  2. Apply for Project Prevent Backflow: The City is offering grants to homeowners who would like to install backwater valves on their sanitary sewer line to help prevent backflow in the future. The application deadline is July 31, 2020. Please report your flooding via the link if you plan on applying to this program. Learn more and apply here >>

  3. Apply for U.S. Small Business Administration Low Interest Federal Loans for Disaster-Related Damages: The U.S. SBA has declared the March and May storm events natural disasters, which means that homeowners, renters and businesses in Whitehall may now apply for special low interest loans for property damages and improvements to help prevent future flooding. The deadline to apply for loans for physical property damage for the March event has passed and the economic injury deadline is February 22, 2021. For those who incurred physical property damages from the May flood, applications will be accepted through is September 18, 2020. Note that should a resident/business not qualify for the loan program, they will be referred to other agencies.
  4. File an Insurance Claim: We strongly encourage you to take photos of your flooding and to make a claim with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance company as quickly as possible. Should you need other proof of flooding, the City’s Emergency Proclamation (issued today in response to flooding that occurred at City Hall and throughout the community) is available for download. Download the Proclamation here >>

What caused the flooding?

The rainfall surge caused flooding for two main reasons. First, creeks and streams were already flooded throughout the region, which prevented storm water from clearing the system. Second, the excess storm water had nowhere to go, so it entered the sanitary sewer system. Whitehall’s sanitary systems all flow to the City of Columbus, and with the flooding throughout the region, that system was over-saturated and created a bottleneck which caused basement backups in many homes throughout the community.

At the May 19 City Council Voting meeting, the Mayor’s Office proposed and City Council adopted an ordinance appropriating funds for a Homeowner Flooding Prevention/Mitigation Program in which homeowners can apply for financial assistance to install approved flooding and prevention mitigation systems for their basements. Learn more about that program here.

Additionally, the City is working with Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security (FCEM&HS) to collect data with the hopes of qualifying for disaster relief funds. Due to these efforts, both the March and May floods were declared disasters by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The data will also be used for future storm water mitigation analyses. Please submit information about your flooding for these purposes here. 

In the long-term, the City has embarked on a 15-year multi-million dollar EPA-approved project to reduce inflow and infiltration into the sanitary sewer system in targeted areas. A comprehensive, system-wide improvement of the sanitary system would take years, extensive cooperation from the City of Columbus and a financial investment reaching into the hundreds-of-millions in cost. System-wide improvements in Whitehall would be meaningless without capacity increases in the City of Columbus system.  

Safety Instructions 

If your basement has flooded, please take the following safety precautions:

  • Electrocution is always a danger in a flooded basement. Wait until the water recedes before you begin cleanup. If you decide to walk in the water, the electricity must be shut off at the main box.
  • Wear rubber boots and gloves, as the water may be contaminated with sewage and other waste. Do not smoke, eat or touch your face while in a flooded area and wash thoroughly after. If you receive an open wound while working in a flooded area, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Do not allow children or pets near the flooded area.
  • Remember that flooded areas will be slippery, even after the water recedes.
  • In almost all cases of basement flooding, city tap water will remain safe. However, whether you have city or well water, do not turn on the faucets below flood level until the water recedes. If you think that your well may have been contaminated, call the Columbus Health Department. Do not use water that may be unsafe for any reason. To disinfect, boil in a clean container for at least two minutes.
  • If a gas odor is present, do not touch any electrical fixtures, telephones or switches – any spark may ignite the gas. Leave immediately, leaving the doors open to ventilate, and call the Fire Department and the gas company from a safe place. Do not light a match or use any open flame on your way out of the house.
  • If the furnace or other appliances became wet, have them inspected by a qualified service technician before using them. Turning on wet electrical equipment could produce shock, endangering life and may burn out equipment. Once your furnace is cleared for use, replace the filter with a new, dry filter.
  • Dispose of all food that became wet - do not eat it. Food in glass containers can be kept only if the floodwater did not reach the lid, but the jar must be washed in warm soapy water and rinsed. Discard food not refrigerated for more than six hours and frozen foods thawed for more than four hours. If any dishes came into contact, clean them with a general disinfectant solution such as two tablespoons of liquid bleach to one gallon of warm water, and wash in a dishwasher if possible.
  • Discard any medicines and personal products that came into contact with the flood water.

Basement Clean-up Instructions 

 To clean-up the basement yourself, after the water recedes, follow these tips:

  • Move items out of the flooded area as soon as possible.
  • Allow wet items to air-dry as quickly as possible to prevent rot and mildew.
  • Open doors and windows. If your furnace or air conditioner is safe to use, turn it on to assist in drying. Also use fans and dehumidifiers if possible.
  • Remove all toxic chemicals such as pesticides from the flooded area to prevent further contamination and the mixing of chemicals.
  • Wash down concrete or brick walls, floors, faucets etc. that have been under water, first with clean water, then soapy warm water. Sweep water and sediment down the drain or to the sump pump.
  • Disinfect all areas and equipment that came into floodwater contact with a solution of 8 tablespoons of liquid chlorine bleach to a gallon of water. Let everything air dry.
  • To clean washable fabric items, brush off dirt and residue before washing, according to the instruction label, in hot or warm water with bleach if possible.
  • Foam rubber mattresses and pillows can be washed, disinfected and air-dried in the sun. If in doubt that an item can be cleaned properly, it is best to discard it.
  • Flush and disinfect floor and sump pump drains using undiluted chlorine bleach.
  • If you basement is finished with drywall and it became wet, it is best to discard it and replace that portion to avoid the growth of mold. Some wood paneling may be salvageable if you can clean and dry it properly without it becoming warped.
  • Reminder: Never mix bleach with ammonia - the fumes produced are toxic.

Source for safety precautions and clean-up tips: City of Columbus Division of Water

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