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Keeping Safe During Flooding

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - As flood waters continue to rise in Johnson County and Iowa City, so does the risk to your health. 

There are now 18,000 cubic feet of water pumping through the Coralville Dam every second, up from 15,000 CFS on Wednesday, forcing the banks of the Iowa river farther and farther up streets, into homes, and closer to private wells. 

And while it might sound like common sense, public health officials are warning people to stay away from flood waters. Iowa City has had reports of parents allowing their children to play in flood waters in City Park -- a potentially life-threatening activity. 

"Drowning is an issue. People just don't need to be near it. The best thing you can do is stay away from it if you can," said Johnson County Public Health deputy director Tricia Kitzmann. 

That means resisting the urge to see how close you can get to the water in parks and on streets, and keeping children away from the water, as well.  

"That is just so, so unsafe. That's when we have the tragedies that happen, is (over) silly things like that," said Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek. 

Fast-moving water can suck people under into unseen manholes, fast-moving debris can cause injury to people and damage to cars, and the things you can't see can be even more dangerous. Bacteria, sewage, and chemicals can all float around in flood water. 

Those things can also contaminate your drinking water. Kitzmann recommends anyone with a private well start barricading it with sandbags. 

"Building a barricade, just so you can protect that well, so it's not going to get contaminated with flood waters," she said. 

If drinking waters happen to become contaminated with flood water, Johnson County Public Health provides free testing. Residents can find out more by calling 319-356-6040. 

Kitzmann also recommends anyone who is cleaning up after flood waters recede to get an updated tetanus shot, just in case something scrapes or cuts you while cleaning. 

And as the Fourth of July weekend approaches, Pulkrabek wants to remind people that there is a boating ban on the Iowa River everywhere south of the dam. 

"You have fast water and you have the high water and you don't really know what's underneath it. So we don't want people in there, because we don't want to have to risk our lives to try and save their lives," he said.  

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