If your home has flood damage, here’s what you can do next
One day after the St. Louis area experienced the highest-ever rainfall recorded in a single day, those who can return to their homes and begin the cleanup process may not know where to start.
St. Louis is coordinating with organizations like the Red Cross and United Way to help people who need assistance, said Sarah Russell, commissioner of emergency management for St. Louis. She added that the situation is still new enough that all the needs may not be identified yet.
“So, working to see what their capabilities are, what needs we have of those who are in the shelter and those who have been affected in their homes, and working to partner those up to meet the needs,” Russell said.
On Tuesday, officials from St. Louis and St. Louis County opened a shelter at the Richmond Heights Community Center for those displaced by flooding.
Sharon Watson with the American Red Cross of Missouri and Arkansas said 33 people stayed overnight in that shelter.
Now, the shelter has moved to the James J. Eagan Civic Center in Florissant, where Watson said there were 18 people on Wednesday, although those numbers are fluid.
“They change as people find a place or sometimes situations where they're able to stay with somebody one night, and then they can't the next night. So, we'll just continue to focus on making sure people have a place to stay in the immediate aftermath,” Watson said.
The Red Cross is working with people to help them assess the damage to their homes and see what assistance can be provided. That could include immediate essentials like food, water and clothing. It could also mean finding short- or long-term housing.
Watson encourages people to contact the Red Cross if they have flood damage, even if they haven’t stayed at a shelter.
“We are in the process today of going out with teams to do damage assessments in the community that have been affected, and so we'll be noting what addresses are actually impacted. But we sometimes don't get all of them,” Watson said.
The Red Cross will then begin the process of opening cases and working with people directly to help with more immediate short-term needs, as well as connecting them with other organizations to assist with longer-term aid.
Russell encourages those with damage to their homes to call the St. Louis Citizen Service Bureau to receive information.
“That way the resident calls and provides their information and the Citizen Service Bureau is able then to route that request or incident to the appropriate departments within the city,” Russell said.
Federal aid may be on the way
Missouri has taken the first step toward requesting federal assistance.
Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe issued an executive order Tuesday declaring a state of emergency. That was needed to seek a federal major disaster declaration.
However, the next step, a formal request to the Biden administration from the state, is not yet complete. U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, is hopeful that's ready soon.
“But it could take a few days, just depending on how much information is able to be gathered by all of the partners that are involved and the local government working on it,” Bush said.
Aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bush said, would be used for more long-term aid such as fixing homes.
Bush believes that once the request makes it to the Biden administration, it will be approved immediately. One of the documents included in that request would be a damage assessment.
“We've been asking people, if you need resources, if you need help, if you have questions, reach out to 211 on your phones because they are collecting information to see what the damage is, how many homes have been impacted, and just what the need is,” Bush said.
She said that by contacting United Way, residents will be connected to other organizations that can help them.
Another resource Bush mentioned is the storage company U-Haul, which is offering 30 days of free storage to those affected by the flood at eight of its locations.
The cleanup process
Before cleanup begins, Russell says it’s important to document the extent of the water damage.
“You don't have to write things down all at once, just snap photos of things that are damaged, that you're getting rid of, for your insurance purposes,” Russell said.
Insurance coverage varies, but flood damage is not typically covered unless a homeowner has specific flood insurance. Russell said even if people don’t have insurance, they should still document the damage.
Before cleanup, safety precautions need to be taken. The continued rain that is forecast, along with higher temperatures, provides an ideal environment for mold and mildew to grow.
“Those can lead to complicating pre-existing health conditions or create new health conditions for someone that lives in this space,” Russell said.
Additionally, floodwater may have displaced objects, including household cleaners and chemicals, creating new hazards. There is also the threat of possible damaged electric or gas lines.
For those ready to begin the cleanup process, Kelly Kordick of Servpro cleaning services says the first step is to remove any standing water. Afterward, any material that still contains water, such as drywall or carpeting, needs to be removed.
“That way, it's just going to help eliminate odor, it's going to help with preventing mold. And then once all the wet materials are out of there and the contaminated materials, then you're able to work on drying the studs,” Kordick said.
How to help
For those who are looking to help, there are multiple ways to assist.
Watson said one of the most efficient ways to assist the Red Cross is through monetary donations.
“That's really the best way in order to help us be able to purchase what's needed,” Watson said.
Another way to help the Red Cross as well as other organizations is to volunteer for relief efforts.
For those seeking to donate items like clothes, the Red Cross does not manage the donation of specific items. Watson said contacting community groups to see what is being requested and gathered would be a better way.
Russell recommends checking with local organizations to see where there is need.
“Look at the organizations that you know are here all the time and find ways to support them whether it's through donating supplies, volunteering, or making a monetary donation to those trusted sources,” Russell said.
Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg