After the Storm
August 23, 2011
Ike covered my "little slice of heaven" in coastal Louisiana " seven acres with a pecan orchard and other fruit trees " with 4 feet of salt water from the Gulf of Mexico. Along with the water came logs, fences, marsh grass, snakes and all kinds of other hazardous items. While some of those items are not necessarily hazardous by themselves, they have secondary hazards associated with them. Let's take a closer look.
Drift logs were everywhere on my property. The logs weren't really hazardous; however, using the saws and axes required to cut them into easily movable pieces brought risks. Before operating a chainsaw, familiarize yourself with the saw and its safety features. Also wear personal protective equipment, including hearing and eye protection. When sawing the logs into sections, cut them into manageable pieces. Even small sections can be heavy, so have enough people to lift them safely and practice proper lifting techniques using your legs rather than your back.
Washed-up fences were another problem after Ike. Many of these fences had barbed wire attached to them, which can cause cuts and puncture wounds to unprotected skin. The barbed wire also posed a risk to clean-up vehicles, as it could puncture a tire and result in an expensive repair and loss of valuable storm recovery time. Always watch where you step and wear gloves when handling fences.
A lot of marsh grass also washed up along my fence line. In fact, I removed four 16-foot trailer loads of grass from the area. Hazards came from using the rakes and pitchforks needed to remove the grass from around the fence. A good stretch before starting helped prevent pulled muscles. Additionally, we wore gloves to reduce blisters, as well as steel-toed shoes " just in case something heavy rolled out onto our feet. Constant communication with other workers was also very important to prevent accidental injury.
After Ike, wild critters were an unexpected concern. When I opened my shed, a snake fell out on me! I chased several other snakes out of the shed, and almost stepped on another just outside the door. Any time a log or fence post was moved, someone was on hand to search for snakes. Also, when removing marsh grass from the fence, a spotter was used to look for snakes that may be hiding in the mess. Even nonpoisonous snakes can give a painful bite, so just avoid all snakes if possible.
Since much of hurricane season runs through summer, the weather following a storm is often hot and humid " especially in the Deep South. In an effort to get the job completed, we often ignore basic needs. Avoid overexertion by taking proper rest breaks and staying hydrated. Also consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun from beating down on you and sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn.
Although these are the lessons I learned while restoring my land back into a personal "Garden of Eden," it by no means is an all-inclusive list. No matter a hurricane, tornado or flood, each offers its own unique challenges. Remember, always prepare for the encroaching storm, but also plan for its aftermath.
For more information on storm cleanup safety, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency website at www.fema.gov or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.
Did You Know?
The Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1 through Nov. 30. Although deadly hurricanes can occur throughout the season, they historically peak in September, according to the National Weather Service. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs May 15 through Nov. 30.