With the potential of damage or flooding in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, area residents are reminded to keep their personal safety in mind as the go about cleaning and making repairs to their homes.

“Safety comes first,” said Onslow County Extension Director Peggie Garner for North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

Garner said that with shelters opening in Onslow County and some residents likely leaving the area for safer locations, many residents will be absent from their homes during the storm and need to use caution when returning.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension has a handbook with tips for preparing and recovering from disasters.

Garner said Hurricane Matthew is expected to bring flooding and there is the potential for damage from falling trees and strong winds.

Before entering a home, inspect for any structural damage to roof, stairs, foundation and other areas. And if there is flooding, Garner said watch for snakes and animals that may come into homes with the floodwaters.

“Proceed with caution when entering the house after flooding,” Garner said. Along with snakes, residents may find fire ants.

Garner said residents are anxious after a storm to tackle the cleanup, but she recommends taking photos of the damage and calling an insurance agent before getting started. Some insurance companies will tell policy holders not to move items.

Once damage is documented, Garner said floodwaters will mean moisture and the potential for mold.

“If you don’t have electricity and there is moisture in the house, there’s a good opportunity for mold,” Garner said.

According to tips from Cooperative Extension, shovel out mud and silt in the house before it dries; wash down flooded walls and floors with a hose before they dry; if you have power, turn on the heat to speed up drying; remove wall board above the flood line as drywall absorbs water, pull out wet insulation and drill holes in exterior siding.

Garner said clothes and items such as dishes and pots and pans can be cleaned, disinfected and salvaged. Furniture such as particle board items cannot be salvaged.

Get out valuable items and documents and store where they cannot get wet.

When it comes to supplies, low-sudsing, non-phosphate detergent, bleach, ammonia and scouring powder and items recommended for cleaning along with buckets, sponges, scrub brushes and a water hose.

Due to possibility of nails and debris, wear boots or heavy-soled shoes.

Garner said protective gear and appropriate attire is important when taking on cleaning and repairs inside and out.

Chainsaws are commonly used for outdoor clearing of tree limbs and debris but can be dangerous. Garner said wear protective eye wear and avoid loose clothing that can get hung up in the equipment.

In general, while cleaning or making repairs be extra cautious about your surroundings and potential hazards, Garner said.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension website includes fact sheets on salvaging flood-damaged appliances, washing and sanitizing kitchen items, and other tips for recovering from disaster.

Visit: https://ncdisaster.ces.ncsu.edu/disaster-factsheets/recovery/