Severe Weather Guide: After the Storm

Stay safe, help others and record the damage.

clean up after a storm


  • Don’t return to severely damaged buildings until advised to do so. There may be structural damage that makes the building unsafe to enter.
  • Help a neighbor who may require special assistance: the elderly, people with disabilities and large families with young children.
  • Take photos of the damage for your records and save samples of spoiled floorings and furnishings to show to your insurance claims adjuster.

Rain and Wind

It’s essential to work safely when cleaning up wind and rain damage. One study showed that 50% of tornado-related injuries happened after the storm.

  • Tetanus. If your last tetanus shot is more than 10 years old, get an updated vaccination.
  •  Glass, fiberglass insulation and other particulates can injure unprotected eyes, lungs and hands. Wear eyewear, sturdy boots, a dust mask, long sleeves and pants, and leather gloves during clean-up efforts.
  • Soft items, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses, pillows, blankets, carpeting and draperies may contain dangerous slivers of glass. Inspect carefully and consider professional cleaning or replacement of these items.
  • Food stored in cupboards may also be embedded with glass splinters. Check flour, sugar, boxed mixes and cereal thoroughly. When in doubt, replace it.


  • The sooner the cleanup can begin, the better. The first 24 hours after the flood are vital for preventing mold from forming in water-damaged homes.
  • Floodwater in your home may contain sewage, E. coli, salmonella and household chemicals. Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles.
  • Electrocution is a major cause of death in flood zones. Do not enter a flooded home where outlets and appliances have been submerged without verifying the power is turned off, not just knocked out and likely to come on unexpectedly.
  • Do not attempt to clean a wet basement with a vacuum that is not meant to handle water. You could be electrocuted.
  • Open every door, drawer, cupboard and window to maintain air circulation. If your air conditioner is working, set it on low to draw the humidity out of your house.
  • Test for water trapped in walls by removing the baseboard and poking small holes in the drywall or plaster about two inches above the floor.
  • Remove and discard all water-soaked, porous items such as upholstered furniture, carpets, soft toys, drywall and insulation. Label this garbage as “contaminated.”
  • After washing with water, disinfect the floors and flooded portions of the walls using a chlorine bleach solution (1/2 cup laundry bleach to 1 gallon water) treating 2 feet above the flood line.
  • Have flood-affected appliances and heating and cooling units checked out and repaired by a qualified service technician before operating them.
  • Stay away from wet, damp or flood-affected outlets, circuit breaker boxes and switches, and have them replaced by a licensed electrician, as needed.

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Tools & Recovery Supplies

If you can, the time to purchase tools and supplies for cleanup is before the storm hits.

  • Axe
  • Chain saw
  • Extra chain for chain saw
  • Gas and oil for chain saw
  • Crowbar
  • Rubber boots and gloves
  • Generator
  • Gas containers
  • Wet/dry vacuum
  • Heavy-duty cleaning supplies
  • Power washer
  • Large fan for drying items out
  • Jumbo trash bins and bags
  • Bleach
  • Bottled water
  • Outdoor gas grill
  • Six 16-foot 2x4s and large tarp for temporary roof repairs

Plus: 81 severe weather survival tips every homeowner must know.

Information for this post was made in collaboration with Lowes for a severe weather guide.

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