After Matthew: Dangers Still Lurk

Don't let down your guard when so many other threats remain.

Although Hurricane Matthew has long since passed, the danger it brought to Volusia and Flagler counties remains.

The storm is blamed for four deaths in this area, but only one occurred while Matthew was lashing us with its winds and rain. Three people have been killed during the cleanup process — a reminder that you can’t take safety for granted just because the skies clear.

The first fatality occurred when Susan Mathes, 63, ventured outside her home in DeLand Friday afternoon to feed her animals during a lull in the storm. She was killed by a falling tree. 

That was the only storm-related death until Monday, when three fatalities occurred. First, 89-year-old Marshall Bailey of DeLeon Springs died apparently after touching a live power line that had been downed by a falling tree.

Next, 9-year-old Jose Angel Barrios died from carbon monoxide emanating from a portable power generator in a back room in his family’s house in Daytona Beach. Jose’s parents and 5-year-old brother also inhaled the fumes and were taken to Halifax Health Medical Center, where they survived.

Finally, Steven Barna, 47, a tree-removal worker from Ohio, was killed at Halifax Plantation in Northern Volusia when a large piece of a tree he was cutting up on the ground rolled on top of him and pinned him underneath.

Some of these tragedies have a familiar ring. For instance, when Hurricane Charley hit Volusia and Flagler counties in 2004 it produced two fatalities: A woman in Daytona Beach was electrocuted after stepping on a downed power line and a man died when a tree fell on top of him while he was clearing debris.

The risk of death or injury during and after severe weather can be minimized by observing these rules:

• Never get close to a downed power wire, let alone touch one. Always assume it’s live and give it a wide berth. Also, don’t touch anything making contact with a line.

• Don’t go outside during severe winds, and don’t assume that what appears to be a respite can’t be interrupted by a sudden gust that sends debris flying through the air or fells a tree or branch.

• Don’t run a generator indoors or near an open window. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can prove fatal before you realize it has become a threat (Jose Barrios was sleeping in his bed when he was killed).

• When clearing brush, be aware of nearby trees that may have been weakened by the storm and could fall at any moment, or whose large branches overhang your work area. Beware of overhead power lines; don’t lift tools or equipment into the air and make contact with them.

Remember, you don’t just take safety precautions before and during a storm, such as boarding up windows or deciding to seek more-secure shelter in an interior room. Use caution and common sense in the aftermath as well. Don’t let down your guard when so many other threats remain.