UACES Facebook Follow guidelines to manage flood debris effectively
skip to main content

Follow guidelines to manage flood debris effectively

By KD Reep 
For U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • Hire a professional, state-licensed arborist to help you with tree and debris removal.
  • Do your homework and follow guidelines before returning to your home and starting the cleaning process.

(482 words)

NASHVILLE, Ark. -- Flooding can be dangerous, but once the water recedes, it can leave behind a multitude of problems in terms of debris and structural damage to buildings and utilities.  

“Be safe and do your homework,” said Sherry Beaty-Sullivan, Howard County extension agent with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. “Before you decide to clean your home and yard, make sure you know what you can and can’t throw away, burn or haul off.” 

After the flood has receded, turn off the electricity at the main breaker or fuse box, even if the power is off in your neighborhood. Check for any gas leaks, and if one is found, leave immediately and call the gas company to turn off the gas. Be sure to check for damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems to be sure nothing is leaking into the environment. 

“Damaged sewer systems are serious health hazards, and they are one of the first things you’ll need to repair to ensure the health of your family and yourself,” Beaty-Sullivan said. 

Next, clean and disinfect everything that became wet. Mud left from floodwaters can contain sewage and other chemicals, “so if you have a question about whether an item came in contact with floodwater, wash it,” she said. 

“The American Red Cross can provide you with a cleanup kit,” Beaty-Sullivan said. “It includes a mop, broom, bucket and cleaning supplies. They also have checklists of what steps to take when cleaning up after a flood.” 

Outside, take stock of what trees, shrubs and plants have sustained damage before clearing downed limbs, brush and other debris. 

“If your trees have sustained damage, it’s best for the trees, you and your property to hire a professional, state-licensed arborist to do the work,” Beaty-Sullivan said. “People using chainsaws should have training before they take to clearing debris or pruning, and you will be relieved at the work a professional can do. In fact, some trees you thought were lost may be saved if an arborist takes a look at your property. It is worth the investment in your home and peace of mind.” 

Once the yard is cleared of debris, haul the trash to an approved dump. 

“Drain water from bird baths, terra cotta or other pots and anything that can hold water,” Beaty-Sullivan said. “Get rid of barrels, old tires and cans, clean your gutters of debris so they can flow freely, and clear ditch and drains so storm water can flow away from your property.” 

While lawns can survive up to four days under water, it may be necessary to recondition the soil. Incorporate additional soil so roots are covered. 

Fertilizer application isn’t needed until the grass has overcome the shock of the disaster. 

“Until grass and other plants have reestablished, fertilizer won’t be a major benefit,” Beaty-Sullivan said. “In fact, it could hurt the plant.”           

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service has the latest research-based information at or contact your county extension office.


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

# # #



Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

Related Links