Here are some excerpts from an article I wrote for Bellaonline.com a few years back. I thought it would be apropos post-Hurricane Sandy: (clicking more will take you to the complete article on Bellaonline.com)
Floods can significantly threaten public health, not only in terms of deaths by drowning, but also indirectly through carbon monoxide poisoning, waterborne disease, hypo- or hyperthermia, infected wounds, and electrocution.
When polluted rivers and lakes overflow due to floods, or torrential rains cause sewage systems to overflow, the ground itself can become contaminated with dangerous chemicals or fecal matter. If the flooded area contains crops, those crops will also be contaminated, possibly resulting in high levels of toxic chemicals….. more
Gasoline powered devices such as generators and blowers are often used during cleanup after floods. These devices can be very dangerous if they are used inside, even when doors and windows are opened. Carbon monoxide can build up over time and nearby individuals may not realize anything is wrong until it is too late…. more
Hurricanes and other severe storms often cause downed power lines in addition to floods. Since water is an excellent conductor of electricity, stepping into flood waters where a power line is down is the same as dropping your hair dryer into your bath water… more
The presence of bacteria and viruses in flood waters can result in an infection if you have a break in the skin, such as a cut or abrasion. Unfortunately, wounds like these are often sustained during cleanup efforts… more
Finally, floods can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses (hyperthermia) in the summer, and decreased body temperature (hypothermia) in winter or even in summer. Flood water is often much colder than body temperature, especially if it is related to runoff from mountain snow. If a person is stranded in a flood and spend too much time in the water, their body temperature can drop to dangerous levels… more
Floods can be deadly weather events, but you can reduce your risk by taking precautions.