Essential Items and Cleanup Tips for Thunderstorms and Heavy Rain in Ottawa

When thunderstorms and heavy rain hit Ottawa, being prepared and knowing how to clean up effectively can make a big difference. Today, Ottawa is experiencing significant weather events, including a severe thunderstorm watch and a rainfall warning. Environment Canada has issued alerts for the area, predicting additional rainfall of 25 to 50 mm and wind gusts up to 90 km/h. This severe weather brings the risk of flash floods, water pooling on roads, and potential structural damage​ (Environment Canada)​​ (Environment Canada)​.

To help you navigate these conditions, here are some essential items to have on hand, along with tips for preparing and cleaning up during and after the storm.

Essential Items for Thunderstorms and Heavy Rain

1. Emergency Kit:

  • Flashlights and Batteries: Keep multiple flashlights and a supply of fresh batteries on hand. Power outages are common during severe storms, and flashlights provide safe, portable light.
  • First Aid Kit: Ensure your kit is well-stocked with bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any necessary prescription medications. Being able to treat minor injuries is crucial when professional help might be delayed.
  • Portable Charger: A fully charged portable charger can keep your phone and other essential devices powered, ensuring you can stay in touch and access important information.
  • Battery-Powered Radio: In case of internet outages, a battery-powered radio can help you stay updated on weather conditions and emergency broadcasts.

2. Weather-Appropriate Gear:

  • Waterproof Clothing: Invest in high-quality raincoats, waterproof boots, and umbrellas to keep dry when you need to go outside. These items can prevent hypothermia and other weather-related health issues.
  • Waterproof Backpack: Protect important items like documents, electronics, and supplies with a waterproof backpack when venturing outdoors in the rain.
  • Rubber Gloves and Boots: Essential for handling wet or flooded areas, rubber gloves and boots can protect you from contaminants in floodwater and provide better grip and safety.

3. Home Preparation:

  • Sandbags: Place sandbags around doors and low-lying areas to prevent water from entering your home. They are especially useful for properties prone to flooding.
  • Plastic Sheeting and Duct Tape: Use plastic sheeting and duct tape to cover and protect important areas and items from water damage, such as windows, doors, and electrical outlets.
  • Sump Pump: A sump pump is crucial for homes with basements that are susceptible to flooding. Ensure it is in working order and consider having a backup pump.

4. Safety Measures:

  • Surge Protectors: Protect your electronics from power surges caused by lightning. Surge protectors can prevent costly damage to your appliances and devices.
  • Tree Maintenance: Regularly trim trees and remove weak or dead branches that could fall and cause damage during a storm. This reduces the risk of property damage and personal injury.
  • Secure Outdoor Items: Tie down or store outdoor furniture, trash cans, and other items that could be blown away by strong winds. This prevents them from becoming dangerous projectiles.

5. Food and Water Supplies:

  • Non-Perishable Food: Stock up on canned goods, snacks, instant noodles, and other non-perishable items that can sustain you during a prolonged power outage. Ensure you have enough food to last several days.
  • Bottled Water: Keep an ample supply of bottled water for drinking and basic needs. Aim for at least one gallon per person per day for at least three days.
  • Manual Can Opener: A manual can opener is a must-have tool for accessing canned food when there’s no power for electric appliances.

6. Household Items:

  • Mops, Buckets, and Towels: These are essential for cleaning up any water that enters your home. Quick removal of water can prevent further damage and mold growth.
  • Dehumidifier: A dehumidifier helps reduce moisture levels inside your home, preventing mold and mildew growth, which can cause health issues and structural damage.
  • Plastic Bins: Store important documents, photos, and valuables in plastic bins to protect them from water damage. Ensure they are sealed tightly and placed in a safe location.

Cleanup and Preparation Tips for Thunderstorms and Heavy Rain in Ottawa

1. Before the Storm:

  • Secure Loose Items:
    • Bring in Outdoor Furniture: Move patio furniture, trash cans, potted plants, and other outdoor items indoors to prevent them from being blown away by strong winds.
    • Anchor Heavy Objects: Secure larger items that cannot be moved, such as grills and picnic tables, with straps or weights to keep them in place.
  • Check Drainage:
    • Clear Gutters and Drains: Ensure that gutters, downspouts, and drains are free from leaves, debris, and other blockages to allow proper water flow and prevent water buildup around your home.
    • Inspect Sump Pumps: Verify that sump pumps are functioning correctly to handle excess water and reduce the risk of basement flooding.
  • Stock Up:
    • Gather Essential Supplies: Ensure you have an ample supply of non-perishable food, bottled water, medications, batteries, and other necessary items to last several days.
    • Prepare Emergency Kit: Assemble a kit that includes a first aid kit, flashlights, a battery-powered radio, portable chargers, and important documents in waterproof containers.

2. During the Storm:

  • Stay Indoors:
    • Avoid Going Outside: Stay inside unless absolutely necessary. High winds and lightning can create hazardous conditions outdoors.
    • Stay Away from Windows: Keep away from windows and doors to avoid injury from broken glass or debris.
  • Unplug Electronics:
    • Disconnect Devices: Unplug electronics and appliances to protect them from power surges caused by lightning strikes.
    • Use Surge Protectors: Plug essential electronics into surge protectors if they must remain connected.
  • Monitor Updates:
    • Keep Informed: Regularly check weather forecasts and alerts using a battery-powered radio, smartphone, or other reliable source.
    • Follow Instructions: Adhere to any evacuation orders or safety instructions issued by local authorities.

3. After the Storm:

  • Safety First:
    • Wait for All-Clear: Ensure the storm has completely passed before beginning any cleanup activities.
    • Avoid Standing Water: Steer clear of standing water, especially near electrical outlets or appliances, to prevent the risk of electrocution.
  • Inspect Your Property:
    • Assess Damage: Check your home and property for structural damage, flooding, broken windows, and fallen branches.
    • Check Utilities: Inspect gas lines, electrical systems, and water pipes for any damage or leaks.
  • Document Damage:
    • Take Photos: Photograph any damage to your property for insurance purposes.
    • Keep Records: Maintain detailed records of all cleanup and repair expenses, including receipts for materials and services.

4. Water Removal:

  • Pump Out Water:
    • Use a Sump Pump: Employ a sump pump or wet/dry vacuum to remove standing water from basements or other flooded areas.
    • Ensure Proper Ventilation: Open windows and doors to improve air circulation and help dry out affected areas.
  • Dry Out Areas:
    • Use Fans and Dehumidifiers: Place fans and dehumidifiers in damp areas to expedite the drying process and prevent mold growth.
    • Remove Carpets and Rugs: Lift carpets and rugs to allow the floors to dry thoroughly.
  • Clean and Disinfect:
    • Disinfect Surfaces: Clean all surfaces that came into contact with floodwater using a bleach solution (1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water) to kill bacteria and prevent mold.
    • Wash Fabrics: Wash any clothing, linens, and other fabrics that were exposed to floodwater in hot water with detergent.

5. Prevent Mold Growth:

  • Remove Wet Materials:
    • Dispose of Damaged Items: Remove and dispose of wet drywall, insulation, and other porous materials that cannot be dried completely.
    • Dry Out Belongings: Dry out salvageable items thoroughly to prevent mold growth.
  • Use Mold Inhibitors:
    • Apply Mold Treatments: Use mold inhibitors on surfaces that were dampened to prevent mold spores from taking hold.
    • Monitor for Mold: Regularly check previously affected areas for signs of mold and address any issues promptly.
  • Maintain Airflow:
    • Keep Air Circulating: Use fans and open windows to maintain good airflow and reduce moisture levels in your home.
    • Ventilate Attics and Crawlspaces: Ensure these areas are properly ventilated to prevent moisture buildup.

6. Yard Cleanup:

  • Remove Debris:
    • Clear Fallen Branches: Remove fallen branches, leaves, and other debris from your yard to prevent clogging drains and gutters.
    • Check Gutters and Downspouts: Clear any debris from gutters and downspouts to ensure proper drainage.
  • Check Drains:
    • Inspect Outdoor Drains: Make sure outdoor drains and storm sewers are clear of debris to prevent flooding.
    • Clean Driveways and Walkways: Sweep away debris from driveways and walkways to prevent slips and falls.
  • Trim Trees:
    • Prune Damaged Branches: Trim any damaged or overhanging branches to reduce the risk of future storm damage.
    • Regular Maintenance: Schedule regular tree maintenance to keep trees healthy and less susceptible to storm damage.

7. Repair and Restore:

  • Fix Leaks:
    • Repair Roof and Windows: Address any leaks in your roof, windows, or foundation to prevent future water intrusion.
    • Seal Cracks: Use sealants to fill any cracks in walls or foundations that could allow water to seep in.
  • Restore Landscaping:
    • Replant Damaged Areas: Replant or repair any damaged landscaping to restore the appearance and function of your yard.
    • Erosion Control: Implement erosion control measures, such as planting ground cover, to prevent soil erosion.
  • Professional Help:
    • Hire Experts: Consider hiring professionals for major repairs or extensive water damage restoration to ensure the work is done safely and correctly.
    • Consult Contractors: Get estimates from contractors for repairs and restoration work and choose reputable, licensed professionals.

Being prepared with essential items and knowing how to effectively clean up can help you handle thunderstorms and heavy rain in Ottawa more effectively. Safety should always be your number one concern during and after severe weather events. By following these tips, you can ensure your safety and minimize damage to your property. Make sure to secure loose items, check drainage systems, and stock up on necessary supplies before the storm hits. During the storm, stay indoors, unplug electronics, and keep informed with weather updates. After the storm, assess any damage carefully, document it for insurance purposes, and begin the cleanup process. Prioritizing safety and being prepared can make a substantial difference in how you weather the storm and recover from its impact. If you encounter significant damage or need assistance, professional cleaning companies are available to help manage extensive water damage and ensure thorough restoration.