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Mold damage often hidden: Homeowners warned to address problem
 
by Andi Atwater, Published by news-press.com [Florida] on September 10, 2004

The first thing Marie Dinon noticed when she drove to her Fort Myers Beach home five days after Hurricane Charley hit was that only about 30 percent of her roof remained. It didn't take long to spot the 17-inch water marks on the outside of her home where floodwater had rushed past — and through — her Shell Mound Boulevard two-story house.

She knew the walls inside had gotten wet, but after she pulled the carpet, disinfected the floors and walls and removed furniture that obviously was ruined, Dinon thought she may have had a handle on a potential mold problem.

But it was too late. Last week, Dinon had her drywall pulled, and what she saw behind it horrified her: spots upon spots of smelly mold creeping and growing in the dark and humid recesses of her walls. "I was absolutely shocked. I wouldn't have guessed it — it grew that fast," said Dinon, who works for the Lee County School District. "I had no idea I was supposed to take my walls out. I think a lot of people did not know that."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is warning residents who got water damage in their homes — whether through flooding or through broken roofs — that mold, mildew and bacteria can become huge problems and need to be addressed immediately.

Mold spores can damage building structures and pose a health problems for many people. FEMA spokesman Cleo Howell said that Florida's high heat and humidity are perfect environments for mold growth, which can begin as early as a day or two after water gets in a house.

Items such as as Sheetrock, drywall, insulation, carpet, carpet pads and mattresses should be removed promptly after flooding — even if it looks dry. "The trouble is, like with Sheetrock, say the bottom 6 inches is wet. The way it's made, it tends to work up Sheetrock a little ways and if you don't take it off, you don't know what's behind it," Howell said.

"What we recommend to people is that they first get everything that is wet out of the house ... if you can clean it, like clothes — wash and dry it properly — then you're OK. But things like Sheetrock, insulation, carpeting ... probably has to be thrown away."

Mold is becoming more and more a concern for Cape Coral mom Cecile Johnson, 42, who had to remove her 11-year-old asthmatic son from her Southwest 14th Place home because water saturated his bedroom and mold spores are becoming visible on her home's ceilings and walls.

Johnson said she was the only one on her block to sustain significant roof damage and has been waiting for nearly a month now for money from her insurance company to fix the leaks and take out the walls.

What started out with Charley as leakage in several bedrooms, a bathroom and the garage is now a major problem throughout most of the house with Frances, she said.

"Water is still falling. I have little buckets all over the house," Johnson said. "Now I'm worried about mold. I didn't have mold before Charley and I have mold now and it's just getting worse."

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