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Published April 2010

When high water hits close to home

By Ryan Gueningsman

Now that river waters have gone down for the most part across the region, it is important to take a look at some things that should be done to residences and businesses that are affected by high water.

Xcel Energy, which provides natural gas and electricity to a majority of the area, offers the following suggestions on what to do before, during, and following a flood event.

After a flood

• Call in a heating contractor to check your furnace and any natural gas appliances that were submerged during the flood. Again, do not attempt to turn your natural gas back on yourself. Xcel Energy will do it for you to make sure your service is safe and reliable.

• If you know that your gas meter on your home or business has been submerged in flood waters, notify the gas company so that the meter can be checked prior to restoring gas service.

• Before using any electricity after a flood, have an electrician check the wiring and related equipment to make sure it’s safe.

Faulty wiring can cause electrical shock, fire or even death. The same results could occur when working on electrical appliances while you’re standing on a wet floor in bare feet or wet shoes.

• Attempts to clean electric motors after a flood should only be done by professionals.

Electrical safety before high waters hit

• If you have time (and no water in your basement), unplug appliances, such as washers and dryers. Better yet, move them to a higher level if possible.

Unplug small appliances, too.

• Do not touch or attempt to unplug or disconnect an electrical appliance if you have to stand in water to do it. Don’t even attempt it on a damp floor.

• If you think the water might rise high enough to cover basement electrical outlets, switch off the circuit breakers (or remove the fuses) at the main electrical box.

Don’t go into the basement if there is water already on the floor.

• If it appears the water level will reach the main electrical box or your electric meter, notify Xcel Energy so the company can shut off the electrical service to your home completely.

• If you plan to use a standby generator, use extreme caution and make sure it is properly installed and maintained.

Natural gas safety

• As snow and ice melt, check your natural gas meter and keep it free of ice to prevent the potential of dangerous natural gas pressure buildup in your home.

Gently remove the snow and ice from the meter and any associated piping and the roofline above the meter. Avoid using sharp objects such as shovels or snowblowers near the meter when clearing a path to it and around it.

• In the event of flooding in your basement, it is important to have the natural gas supply to your home disconnected. Contact Xcel Energy to shut off your natural gas service and do not attempt to turn it back on yourself.

• Although it’s obvious you can’t move your furnace, if you have a natural gas dryer, you may be able to move it to a higher location.

However, the company urges you to contact a professional to disconnect the natural gas line before you move it.

• Appliance control manufacturers generally recommend that a trained service professional replace all controls that have been submerged in water.

Manufacturers warn that these appliance controls will corrode over time, causing valve failure and the potential for dangerous natural gas leaks.

Appliance controls are often at the bottom of the appliance, and the appliance itself does not have to be totally submerged in water for appliance controls to be submerged.

• If you smell natural gas, leave the house immediately. Don’t turn lights on or off or use any other electrical switches, including garage door openers, under any circumstances.

Don’t open any windows or doors other than the ones you pass through on your way out.

Don’t use a cell phone or any other phone while still in the house; go to a neighbor’s house or other safe place away from your home to call for emergency help.

Other safety tips

• If you are using a boat for transportation during a flood event, be sure to check the location and height of overhead power lines before launching or taking the boat out of the water.

• Never assume a downed power line is dead. If you come across a downed line, leave the area immediately.

Warn others to stay away and immediately your power company or 911.


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