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Caution--patience needed after storm

By TIMES STAFF WRITER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 30, 1999


Be patient. Access to affected areas will be controlled and you won't be able to return to your home until search and rescue operations are complete and safety hazards are clear.

Listen to radio and TV stations to learn when you can return to evacuated areas and for advice about food, housing, medical and other aid.

If you don't live there, stay away from disaster areas. Sightseeing can interfere with first-aid and rescue operations.

Beware of snakes, insects and animals that might have been driven to higher ground.

Drive cautiously. Debris-filled streets can be slick and dangerous. In low-lying areas, the soil under roads may be washed away, and streets could collapse under the weight of a vehicle.

Don't touch loose, dangling or damaged wires. Report them to the power company or the police.

Check for leaking gas lines by smell only. If a leak is detected, open all windows and doors, turn off the main gas valve at the meter and leave the house. Notify the gas company or police, and do not re-enter the house.

Report broken sewer or water lines to the city utilities department.

Use extreme caution entering buildings that may have been damaged by wind or floodwaters.

Check food and water supplies before using them. Food requiring refrigeration may be spoiled. Food that has been in contact with floodwaters could be contaminated.

Keep grills for cooking outdoors in a well-ventilated area.

Make fire prevention a priority. Low water pressure could make firefighting difficult.

Take care in allowing your pet outdoors. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered, and your pet could get confused and lost. Downed power lines, reptiles and contaminated food and water could be dangerous.

Assess and photograph damage to your home and its contents.

Make temporary repairs to correct safety hazards and minimize additional damage.

Only hire licensed contractors to do repairs.

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