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When you think of cleaning up after Long Island water damage, then what often first comes to mind is flooding in the home via a burst pipe, bathtub overflow or broken appliance. However serious that is to the homeowner, it is insignificant when it comes to a natural flood. Usually caused by a storm surge or torrential rainfall, the effects on both property and the environment can be massive. Of course flooding can occur due to many different factors such as a hurricane, flash flood, spring thaw or even continuous heavy rain. According to Suffolk County, approximately fifteen percent of Long Island residents reside in a category 4 storm flood zone. Historically LI was not considered at risk for flooding until the arrival of hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Hurricane Sandy resulted in major flooding in affected areas included Suffolk County areas of Fire Island, Babylon, Brookhaven, Islip, Riverhead, Southampton and Southold. In addition Nassau County areas of South Shore, including south of Sunrise Highway, as well as the North Shore’s areas north of Route 25A were all affected, by a storm surge that was 14 feet above low water level. The tides are important, because if a storm surge occurs at high tide, it has a much more devastating effect as water levels are naturally higher to start with.
The effects on the environment and plant-life are largely caused by what is known as category 3 water, sometimes known as ‘black water’. As flood water causes drains and sewers to overflow, the clean rain water is mixed with rising levels of raw untreated sewage, and other sources of contaminants. This category three water contains a mixture of chemicals, harmful bacteria and fungi. Sensitive plants can recover from temporary flooding with clean water, but if too much of the toxins are absorbed via roots and leaves, then the plant may die.
The most common effects from mold growth after flooding are allergic responses from breathing mold spores. Serious infections from living molds are relatively rare and occur mainly in people with severely suppressed immune systems, or other breating conditions. Many types of molds may produce toxins but only under certain growth conditions. Toxic effects have been reported from eating moldy grain, however it is best to be safe than sorry, and avoid any contaminated food.
Some plants have low low water use (drought tolerant), and can be more resistant to absorbing toxic water. Shrubs such as Snow-on-the-Mountain, Blueberry Muffin Ajuga, Pussytoes, Eye Candy Ice Plant, Cousin It Casuarina, Baby Tears Stonecrop, Sterling Silver Vinca and Ralph Shugert Periwinkle are typical tolerant ground cover shrubs..
After a flood it is a good idea to remove damaged shoots from affected plants. Of course edible crops that are near to harvest are potentially harmful and should not be eaten. Uncooked plants that are normally eaten raw should be disposed of, and for a period of up to two years after a category 3 water flood, leafy plants and salad crops should not be grown or consumed as the toxins may still be present near the surface and disease spores may still be present in the soil. If can take up to two years of natural rainfall and drainage before a flooded area can be considered back to normal.
Hurricane Sandy: Long Island Endures