In New Mexico, floods can occur quickly.
It is important to have an emergency plan and to be prepared before storms hit
your area. When storms hit stay away from arroyos, ditches and acequias. Learn about your community's emergency's plans, warning signals, evacuation routes and locations of area emergency shelters.
Safety Precautions: Forests, Burned Areas, and Ditches
Stay away from arroyos and acequias especially during monsoon season. Be cautious when entering or driving through forests, especially ones that recently experienced wildfires. During monsoon season these areas present some additional hazards and may experience flash flooding.
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In New Mexico, the threat of seasonal wildfires followed by flooding is a concern for all citizens statewide. Wildfire damage to the area of the headwaters of a watershed can increase the magnitude, intensity, and frequency of downstream flooding events that typically follow monsoon events.
How to Prepare for a Flood
The Supplies You Need During a Flood
What To Do During a Flood Watch
Be Prepared to Evacuate
Going Into Your Home After a Flood or Disaster
Floods and Mold
Floods and Water Wells
Floods: Forests and Fires
How to Prepare Before a Storm or Flood Hits Your Area
Supplies You Will Need During The Flood Emergency
You should stock your home with supplies that may be needed during the emergency period. At a minimum, these supplies should include:
- Several clean containers for water that are large enough for a 3-5 day supply of water (about five gallons for each person).
- A 3-5 day supply of nonperishable food and a non-electric can opener.
- A first aid kit and prescription medicines and special medical supplies.
- A battery-powered radio, flashlights, and extra batteries.
- Sleeping bags or extra blankets.
- Water-purifying supplies
- Baby food and/or prepared formula, diapers, and other baby supplies.
- Disposable cleaning cloths, such as "baby wipes" for the whole family to use in case bathing facilities are not available.
- Personal hygiene supplies, such as soap, toothpaste, sanitary napkins, etc.
- An emergency kit for your car with food, flares, booster cables, maps, tools, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, sleeping bags, etc.
- Rubber boots, sturdy shoes, and waterproof gloves.
- Insect repellent containing DEET, screens, or long-sleeved and long-legged clothing for protection from mosquitoes which may gather in pooled water remaining after the flood.
How To Prepare If You Are Under Flood Watch or Warning
- Gather the emergency supplies you previously stocked in your home and stay tuned to local radio or television station for updates.
- Be prepared to turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
- Have your immunization records handy or be aware of your last tetanus shot, in case you should receive a puncture wound or a wound becomes contaminated during or after the flood.
- Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills and trash cans inside or tie them down securely.
Prepare for a power outage
Whether you must evacuate or stay put, you should be prepared for long periods of power outages. Adjust the thermostat on refrigerators and freezers to the coolest possible temperature and avoid frequently opening these to help keep food at safe temperatures. Fill bathtubs, sinks and bottles with clean water to so you may have a supply of water on hand for basic needs. (Sanitize the sinks and tubs first. Rinse and fill with clean water). Fill your clean water containers.
Have handy several flashlights and batteries.
Be Prepared to Evacuate
If it appears that evacuation may be necessary, it's important to be prepared for a quick departure, for time spent away from your home or a time without utilities.
- Fill your vehicle’s gas tank and make sure the emergency kit for your car is ready.
- Load your vehicle with the supplies your prepared such as portable water containers, food, and essential items.
- If no vehicle is available, make arrangements with friends or family for transportation.
- Review your emergency plans and supplies, checking to see if any items are missing.
- Tune in the radio or television for weather updates.
- Listen for disaster sirens and warning signals.
- Put livestock and family pets in a safe area or designated shelter. Due to food and sanitation requirements, emergency shelters cannot accept animals.
- Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
What To Do If You Are Ordered To Evacuate
You should never ignore an evacuation order. Authorities will direct you to leave if you are in a low-lying area or within the greatest potential path of the rising waters. If a flood warning is issued for your area or you are directed by authorities to evacuate the area:
- Take essential items with you that you have prepared such as your emergency kit, water, and personal items.
- If you have time, disconnect appliances to prevent electrical shock when power is restored.
- Follow the designated evacuation routes and expect heavy traffic.
- Do not attempt to drive or walk across arroyos, acequias, irrigation ditches or flooded roads.
- Remain calm and stay informed.
For more information on emergency preparedness please contact the Bureau of Health Emergency Management at 505 476-8295.
Going Into Your Flooded Home
When returning to a home that’s been flooded or damaged after a disaster, be aware that your house may be contaminated with mold or sewage. During monsoons and after floods the New Mexico Department of Health reminds New Mexicans they need to be proactive about preventing mold from growing in their homes. If you don’t immediately dry out your home and clean your belongings, you could be setting yourself up for problems down the road.
When You First Go Inside Your Home
- If you have standing water in your home and can turn off the main power from a dry location, then go ahead and turn off the power, even if it delays cleaning. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off. NEVER turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
- Have an electrician check the house’s electrical system before turning the power on again.
- If the house has been closed up for several days, enter briefly to open doors and windows to let the house air out for awhile (at least 30 minutes) before you stay for any length of time.
- If your home has been flooded and has been closed up for several days, presume your home has mold growth.
- If your home has been flooded, it also may be contaminated with sewage.
If flood or storm water has entered your home, dry it out as soon as possible. Follow these steps:
- If you have electricity and an electrician has determined that it’s safe to turn it on, use a “wet-dry” shop vacuum (or the vacuum function of a carpet steam cleaner), an electric-powered water transfer pump, or sump pump to remove standing water. If you are operating equipment in wet areas, be sure to wear rubber boots.
- If you do not have electricity, or it is not safe to turn it on, you can use a portable generator to power equipment to remove standing water. Note: If you must use a gasoline-powered pump, generator, pressure washer, or any other gasoline-powered tools to clean your home, never operate the gasoline engine inside a home, basement, garage, carport, porch, or other enclosed or partially enclosed structures, even if the windows and doors are open. Such improper use can create dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If weather permits, open windows and doors of the house to aid in the drying-out process.
- Use fans and dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture. Fans should be placed at a window or door to blow the air outwards rather than inwards, so not to spread the mold.
- Have your home heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system checked and cleaned by a maintenance or service professional who is experienced in mold clean-up before you turn it on. If the HVAC system was flooded with water, turning on the mold-contaminated HVAC will spread mold throughout the house. Professional cleaning will kill the mold and prevent later mold growth. When the service determines that your system is clean and if it is safe to do so, you can turn it on and use it to help remove excess moisture from your home.
- Prevent water outdoors from reentering your home. For example, rain water from gutters or the roof should drain away from the house; the ground around the house should slope away from the house to keep basements and crawl spaces dry.
- Ensure that crawl spaces in basements have proper drainage to limit water seepage. Ventilate to allow the area to dry out.
Safety Precautions: Molds and Floods
Dry it out
Clean it up
Keep it Clean, Dry and Ventilated.
As you are cleaning up after a flood and during rainy season, be on the lookout for mold for several weeks. Standing water and wet materials are a breeding ground for mold, especially on warm days.
During monsoons and after floods the New Mexico Department of Health reminds New Mexicans they need to be proactive about preventing mold from growing in their homes. If you don’t immediately dry out your home and clean your belongings, you could be setting yourself up for problems down the road. You could save yourself some trouble by catching it before it spreads.
Mold is part of nature’s decay process. If mold sits there long enough, it will eventually damage porous material, such as drywall, and it can impact indoor air quality. The best bet to avoid housing and health problems is to remove it and take steps to prevent future growth.
After floods the first step is to dry out your home. If you have standing water pump it out, soak it up or suck it out with wet vacuum. The next step is to take any wet items outside to thoroughly dry. Use fans to dry out the area as much as possible and let the area ventilate (open windows, use exhaust fans). This will help keep the mold from growing.
Next, if mold has already started to grow, clean small areas by washing mold off of hard surfaces with a mixture of detergent (dish soap) and hot water and then dry the area immediately. Be sure to wear a N95 respirator mask (found at most hardware stores) and gloves as you clean. (If you didn't catch the mold growth on time, large areas should be cleaned by professionals).
Mold must be physically removed, scraped and washed off. Do not expect it to disappear by spraying bleach or chemicals on it. Launder any items that got wet such as clothes and washable fabrics. Items made of cardboard and paperboard such as boxes should be disposed of if these got wet. Usually these are the first items that begin to smell and grow mold.
Since mold spores are ordinarily in household dust, mold can grow as part of nature’s decay process when this dust settles in warm and moist environments. By keeping your home clean and ventilated you can prevent mold overgrowth.
Dry it out.
The first thing to do is to pump out or soak up any standing water. If you have a lot of water in the house it may be worth it to hire a professional that has the equipment needed to quickly dry out a home.
- Next take items made of fabric outside or into a garage to dry, such as curtains, rugs, furniture and anything else that may have gotten wet.
- Use a shop vac or wet vac to suck water out of wet carpets and other surfaces.
- Use fans to help get air moving in enclosed spaces. Try to get as much air movement as possible. Consider renting or buying a dehumidifier to keep moisture levels low in the air in rooms you’re trying to dry.
- Remove baseboards and moldings from flooded walls, especially if the walls are made of sheetrock because the baseboard and molding may prevent the lower or upper part of the wall to dry out.
Clean it up.
If mold has already started to grow, you can clean a small area by washing mold off most hard surfaces with a mixture of detergent and hot water. The EPA doesn't recommend using chlorine bleach or other biocides. Mold must be physically removed, so do not expect it to just disappear by spraying bleach on it. It must be scrubbed off. Look along the corners of walls and edges of floors for possible growth and on walls in rooms with poor ventilation. Be sure to wear a N95 respirator mask (found at most hardware stores) and puncture resistance gloves as you clean.
Both the CDC and the EPA recommend bringing in a trained professional to clean up mold that covers more than 100 square feet (or a 10-foot-by-10-foot area). At a minimum, anyone you hire should have experience getting rid of mold, references you can call, and liability insurance.
What about your things?
The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) recommends that you clean hard surfaces that have small amounts of mold with detergent and a little bit of water and then dry it out as much as possible. Items that can usually be cleaned and saved include:
- Hard, non-porous items like dishes, glass, porcelain, and metal.
- Wood furniture if the mold is removed before decaying begins.
- Some electronics and small appliances, depending on flooding conditions.
- Photographs, books, and valuable legal documents with only small levels of mold.
- Artwork, textiles, or clothing that has no physical damage and can be washed with hot water.
The NCHH recommends throwing away the following items, if they look or smell moldy or look like they’ve been underwater:
- Papers and books, including cardboard and paperboard.
- Carpet, carpet padding, and rugs.
- Upholstered furniture.
- Computers, microwaves, window A/C units, or any appliances that have fans that were sitting in moldy rooms.
Keep it Clean, Dry and Ventilated.
Include mold prevention in your regularly cleaning routine.
Since mold spores are ordinarily in household dust and thrive in warm and moist environments, taking these steps can help you avoid a big problem:
- Dust with a lightly damp cloth frequently.
- Allow regular ventilation in all rooms.
- Eliminate excess moisture by fixing leaks and dripping faucets.
- Use exhaust fans or open windows in bathrooms while showering.
- Wash floors, hard surfaces, and walls regularly to remove dust and allow those to dry out well.
- Vacuum your carpet and furniture using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
- Use dust mats at entryways and remove shoes before entering the home to reduce the amount of dust carried in.
- Empty out used coffee filters before you leave your home (mold can sometimes grow in a day).
- Do not leave dirty dishes standing or soaking in your sink for a long time.
- Do not leave food sitting out. Keep your food refrigerated and dry goods in air tight containers. Dispose of waste from carryout items immediately.
- Remove dead leaves and stems off of household plants.
- Wash fruits and vegetables well.
Safety Precautions: Well Water After Fire and Flood
Wildfire damage to the area of the headwaters of a watershed can increase the magnitude, intensity and frequency of downstream flooding events that typically follow monsoon events.
Those who live in an area with a watershed affected by wildfire should expect concentrations of many pollutants to be higher in the runoff following a rain event compared to pre-flood concentrations.
Steps should be taken now to prevent post-fire flood waters from contaminating private wells:
Slope the area around the well so that water flows away from the well head.
Ensure that the well is properly sealed.
If the well has any change in taste, color, or smell, get it tested.
If possible, test the well before any flooding events occur to have a baseline level from which to monitor changes.
If your water well floods, see the tips for checking your drinking water quality from your private wells.
Get more information on source water protection for private wells.