How to stay safe around floodwaters left by storms

Severe storms drenched the New York City metro area on Friday, flooding homes, businesses and streets.

A general view of a flooded street in New York
Parts of New York City were heavily flooded on Sept. 29, 2023. (Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Severe storms hit New York City on Friday, and officials said the region could get up to 8 inches of rain.

New York and New Jersey were both under states of emergency after heavy rains flooded parts of both states, leaving pedestrians and drivers stranded as roadways were inundated with floodwaters.

Toxic waters

Floodwaters can be dangerous for several reasons, regardless of whether the flooding occurs in built-up areas like cities or coastal neighborhoods. Floodwaters can hide an array of harmful elements including human sewage, industrial hazardous waste and physical objects such as downed trees or power lines. It is important to stay away from flooded areas when possible — especially when injured.

According to the Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention, exposure to contaminated floodwater can cause a wound to become infected, as well as skin rashes and gastrointestinal illness.

“It is important to protect yourself from exposure to floodwater regardless of the source of contamination,” the CDC states on its website. “The best way to protect yourself is to stay out of the water.” If you come into contact with floodwaters, wash yourself as soon as you can with soap and water or with sanitizer.

If you must travel through floodwaters, protect yourself as much as you can. The CDC recommends wearing “rubber boots, rubber gloves and goggles.”

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Drowning risk

No matter how calm floodwaters look and no matter how good you are at swimming, these waters can always be a drowning risk, especially for children. It is important to follow any flooding warnings that have been issued by local authorities and never cross into flooded roads. The same goes when traveling in a car. The CDC warns that “cars or other vehicles won’t protect you from floodwaters.” Vehicles can be swept away even in slow-moving floodwaters.

Cars struggle in a flooded street in Brooklyn, New York
Cars struggle in a flooded street in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sept. 29, 2023. (Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Mosquito-linked illnesses

The number of mosquitos in an area after it has been flooded increases, as they breed in stagnant water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, anyone who is able to drain rain gutters and empty pools, buckets and containers should do so as immediately as possible. The quicker the elimination of such breeding grounds for mosquitoes, the less chance there is for someone to become infected with a mosquito-borne illness.