North Carolina officials stressing safety during Matthew cleanup

A car is submerged in floodwaters caused by rain from Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, N.C., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike Spencer)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WAVY/AP) — Officials in North Carolina are asking residents to take extra precautions for their health and safety as cleanup continues from Hurricane Matthew.

The storm brought heavy rainfall to the state, and caused life-threatening flooding. Twenty-three deaths were confirmed in the aftermath of the storm, with nearly half of them reported in North Carolina.

Cleanup underway after Matthew pummels region with rain, flooding

Flooding was a major problem across the state, including North Carolina High Way 12 — where the roadway has once again suffered damage from overwash.

Officials say falls are common after storms, as residents climb ladders to repair roof or tree damage. Workers can also be susceptible to heat-related problems during cleanup, according to state officials.

Residents are being asked to be careful when re-entering homes that have been affected by flood waters. Officials on Tuesday released a list of safety measures residents can take if their home was flooded:

  • Do not try to remove flood-damaged materials that may contain asbestos. Buildings built before 1975 may have asbestos insulation and tape on the heating systems. Leave any suspected asbestos in place until it can be removed by trained asbestos professionals.
  • Do not turn the power back on until the electrical system has been inspected by a qualified electrician. Standing on wet ground or floors can put you at risk for electrocution. If the pilot light on a natural gas furnace, hot-water heater or stove has gone out, have it re-lit by a professional.
  • Furnishings and fixtures made from absorbent materials will need to be discarded if they have been in contact with flood water, including mattresses, upholstered furniture, carpets and padding, and books and paper products.
  • Clothes, bedding and drapes can be washed in clean, hot water with a disinfectant, or dry-clean them. Throw them away if they are moldy or mildewed.
  • If flood water soaked sheetrock, insulation or ceiling tiles, remove the items 30 inches above the water line. Paneling may be removed and saved, but wall cavities should be drained, cleaned, checked for molds, and dried out. Undamaged walls, hard surface floors and other surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected with a solution of ¼ cup of laundry bleach to a gallon of water.
  • Clean, disinfect, and dry linoleum or tile floors. Floor tile and linoleum can contain asbestos and should not be disturbed. Chipping or grinding these materials may release asbestos
  • Use a two-bucket method when cleaning. Put cleaning solution in one bucket and rinse water in the other. Replace rinse water frequently.

Dare County officials on Tuesday released a similar list of safety tips for residents who will be looking to recover from storm damage. A long stretch of North Carolina Highway 12 collapsed from overwash as Matthew pummeled the area.

Authorities restricted access to Dare County and the Outer Banks in the aftermath of the storm.

Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday warned residents in a news conference of continued life-threatening flooding in the eastern and central parts of the state.

“Yesterday I saw first-hand the very dangerous conditions that still exist for many people,” said Governor McCrory. “I am extremely proud of our emergency responders on the local, state and federal level, and I am proud of our citizens who are helping each other. I urge people impacted by this storm to take all instructions from local officials. Do not go through standing water. Do not put our first responders at risk in an effort to save you.”

Officials say the greatest threat to safety remains inland flooding in eastern and central North Carolina.

Matthew caused hundreds of thousands of residents in Virginia and North Carolina to lose power. Dominion Power says a majority of customers are expected to have their power restored by Thursday night.

Stay with WAVY News 10 for the latest updates to Hurricane Matthew cleanup efforts.