Area residents rushing to clear items out of homes prior to the recent evacuation deadline had to make some difficult and trying choices about what to remove and when. For many that meant leaving behind some outdoors equipment that would later become covered in dirty flood water or sewage that backed up in numerous basements.
Now, with the recovery and cleanup under way, owners of flooded outdoors gear are wondering how much of it, if any, can be saved. The answer is different for each situation. Some items will be salvageable, others probably not. However, saving equipment can save money.
In an outdoors-oriented state like North Dakota, it is understandable that ammunition is stored in residences. Many of those residences flooded, including as much as several million rounds of ammunition left behind in the haste to evacuate. Flooded too was hundreds, perhaps thousands of pounds of reloading powder and equipment, all of which needs to be removed from flooded homes.
"It's piling up pretty heavy, more than we know what to do with or planned on doing," said Lt. John Klug, Minot Police Department. "Any ammo, even black powder and that kind of stuff, needs to be picked up and destroyed. It's best."
Klug says a group contracted by the Environmental Protection Agency is doing house-to-house pickup of hazardous material in flooded areas, including soggy ammunition, reloading supplies and similar items. Also, Klug said, residents can bring flooded ammunition to the Police Department where it will be collected and destroyed by the bomb squad. Persons wary of wet ammunition should call the Police Department for advice about removal.
Attempting to fire soggy ammunition is probably the worst decision and will likely result in serious injury. As with all issues regarding firearms, safety should be the No. 1 consideration.
"Some rounds, especially shotgun shells, are made to be water resistant but that doesn't mean submerged for a long period of time," Klug said. "Personally, I wouldn't put it through my gun. I wouldn't take the chance of it not functioning."
Firearms that remained behind in flood waters should be cleaned as quickly as possible when discovered. Cleaning the barrel should be the No. 1 priority, followed by an inspection and cleaning of all surface areas.
"The longer they wait, the deeper the rust gets," said Steve Burton, Sportsman's Loft in Minot. "If rust sits on the metal and begins to pit, wipe it with oil and remove as much as you can. These are trying times and everyone has a lot of expenses. I'd say try and recover something from flooded firearms."
Wood gun stocks and forearms are prone to warping from floodwaters. Synthetic stocks should fare better. Not all submerged guns can be returned to complete working order, but that doesn't mean they are without value.
"Why throw it away?" Burton said. "My advice is to bring it in. We can give you a quick evaluation on it. You can probably recover the receiver and get $50 or $100 for just that. If we're not sure, we'll refer you to a gunsmith. At least get it checked."
Fishing gear is made to be used in wet conditions, but that doesn't include complete submersion for long periods of time. Fishing reels caked in mud and sludge from the recent flood may appear hopelessly ruined, but some of them may not require a great deal of time or effort to return them to working order.
A thorough cleaning is necessary to remove hazardous flood water residue from rods and reels. An attempt should be made to remove any visible rust. Some reels can be easily opened, inspected, rinsed, re-greased and returned to working condition.
It is possible to reclaim some fishing lures that remained in flood waters as well. Spoons, spinner blades and hooks are all likely to show some rust. Some lures will have to be discarded. Others can be brought back to life with a good cleaning and the addition of replacement hooks. Tarnished spinner blades, especially copper and silver, may require the use of a professional cleaner to restore their reflective surfaces.