As a city located on the California coast, Sunnyvale has seen its share of flooding, and the local community is no stranger to dealing with water damage. When a coastal home or business floods, the presence of saltwater has distinctive effects on the nature of the property damage situation. SERVPRO® of Palo Alto is highlighting several areas where saltwater exacerbates property damage.
King tides and coastal water damage
King tides, a yearly occurrence of unusually high tides, can be a cause of saltwater flooding at properties in the Sunnyvale area. This year, the California King Tides Project forecasts that king tides will occur between December 23 and 24 in 2022 and between January 21 and 22 in 2023.
An article from NPR explains how the observation of king tides can help anticipate damage from storms and heavy rainfall. “They are indicators of how and where rising water levels can extend further inland, especially when they occur under storm conditions. And, in addition to increased flooding, encroaching waves erode beaches and cliffs and raise coastal groundwater levels.”
The article goes on to state: “In August 2020, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office reported: ‘Scientific estimates suggest the magnitude of sea‑level rise (SLR) in California could be at least half of one foot in 2030 and as much as seven feet by 2100. Moreover, storm surges, exceptionally high “king tides,” or El Niño events could produce notably higher water levels than SLR alone.’ According to the same study, up to $10 billion worth of existing property in California is likely to be underwater by 2050. An additional $6 billion to $10 billion will be at risk during high tides.”
What happens when salt water is a factor in a water damage disaster?
1. The floodwaters become more conductive.
In any type of water damage event, homeowners and business owners should always be careful to avoid coming in contact with water that has potentially been electrified. However, the presence of salt in the floodwaters allows the water to more easily carry an electrical current. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains this phenomenon: “Because dissolved salts and other inorganic chemicals conduct electrical current, conductivity increases as salinity increases.”
2. The drying time increases, causing an elevated mold risk.
Because of interactions between salt and water at the molecular level, saltwater evaporates at a slower rate than fresh water. As a result, saltwater stays in the damaged property for a longer period, continuing to cause damage and increasing the scope of the water-damaged area. Once the water finally evaporates, salt will still remain, leaving white, grainy layers on the inside of the home or business. Delays in moisture evaporation also allow for mold to take hold and a mold infestation to develop.
3. Construction materials begin to dissolve.
Saltwater eats away at all kinds of building materials, including wood, drywall, gypsum board, mortar, plaster, concrete, metal, cinder blocks, and bricks. In areas that frequently experience storms and tidal flooding, recurring exposure to saltwater can cause severe structural issues.
4. Metal corrodes more rapidly.
Highly salinated water creates a corrosive environment that affects metal supports and piping in a home or business. Copper piping is especially vulnerable to damage from saltwater, but cast iron and galvanized steel plumbing are also at risk. If saltwater weakens the integrity of a pipe, the pipe may crack or burst in the future, leading to another water damage disaster.
5. The structure’s foundation starts to erode.
Saltwater upsets soil chemistry and stresses surrounding plant life. This increased soil salinity causes shifting, which destabilizes the foundation of a building and can cause structural problems.
The water damage remediation solution
When saltwater floods a Sunnyvale, CA, home or business, the property owner needs to enlist the services of a local full-service restoration company that has experience dealing with the property damage issues that affect homes and businesses in Sunnyvale and surrounding areas. The team at SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides water damage repair, cleaning, and reconstruction services to residential and commercial clients. Highly trained restoration technicians deliver round-the-clock emergency service, respond rapidly to the situation, and remediate the damage promptly so the client’s life can return to normal as quickly as possible.