By MARK TODD - email@example.com
Clouds have parted and skies have dried up, but the rainfall that drenched the region last week has left behind some serious health and safety concerns, experts say.
Water that poured down for days has spawned clouds of mosquitoes and flooded basements across Ashtabula County, both of which can pose problems. Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is warning people away from creeks and streams swollen by the deluge.
Mosquitoes can pose a big risk in wet climates, said Ray Saporito, the county’s health commissioner. “In general, when you have lots of rain mosquito populations can boom,” he said.
Bug-borne diseases can include encephalitis and West Nile virus, Saporito said.
“We’ve had recorded cases of West Nile virus as far back as 10 years ago,” he said. “It’s here.”
People can minimize the chance of illness-producing mosquito bite by taking a few simple precautions, Saporito said. Mosquitoes love stagnant water as a breeding ground, so refresh water often in kiddie pools and birdbaths. Dump water out of tires and other containers and make sure gutters are clean and flowing.
“You want to eliminate standing water as much as possible,” Saporito said.
Make sure window screens are intact, and avoid going outside at dawn and dusk, when skeeters are most active, Saporito said. Stay out of shaded areas and use bug repellent when possible, he said.
Heavy rain also filled many basements across the region with dirty water — or worse. The Ohio Department of Health has issued guidelines for people scrubbing up after a flood:
• Keep kids and pets out of the cleanup area until work is done
• Wear rubber boots, gloves and goggles while cleaning
• Discard fabric- and cloth-based items — including furniture, toys and bedding — damaged by water, and scrub hard surfaces with hot water and laundry or dish detergent
• Fans and dehumidifiers can help the drying process
Storm damage should be reported immediately to insurance companies, advises the Ohio Department of Insurance. The agency has helpful tips regarding the claims process on its website, www.insurance.ohio.gov., as well as hints on how to avoid crooked contractors who prey on storm victims.
On Friday, the ODNR warned that the week’s heavy rain has created deep, swift-moving water in northeast Ohio rivers and streams. As a result, the agency is warning paddlers and fishermen to avoid the waterways until conditions subside. Even walking alongside a raging river can be risky because banks may have been weakened by the water and uprooted trees and limbs, according to the ODNR.
“With the increased amount of rain, extra precautions are needed to ensure the strength and speed of a river does not exceed people’s skill capabilities or that of their equipment,” Jim Zehringer, ODNR director, said in a statement.
The region should have ample opportunity to dry out over the next several days. Temperatures will climb into the 80s and rain doesn’t appear in the forecast until Wednesday.