Move fast to avoid mold taking over

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Roof damage means a lot of water that went into a lot of homes in southwest Houston. That leads to huge piles of debris and building materials that have been pulled out of homes. Homeowners are doing exactly what experts advise -- getting that wet stuff out of their houses. If you don't, you're in for an unhappy surprise.

Coming home doesn't feel so sweet any more for Yvonne Lopez.

"It was just devastating, just devastating and no one has been able to help us," she said.

There's no help for the Houston mother whose apartment was soaked from ceiling to floor by Hurricane Ike.

"Water was leaking in through the ceiling," Lopez explained. "It just spread all over the bed and everything. The floor was saturated wet."

Lopez says she told her apartment manager several times about the damage, but the landlord did nothing. In just days, mold began appearing.

"Every day after that we came trying to get little by little out," Lopez said. "It was just spreading like crazy."

More than two weeks later, the two bedroom apartment resembles some kind of science experiment gone bad. A musty smell fills every room, furry mold covers almost every surface -- from ceilings to walls and baseboards. And mold isn't the only thing growing.

Lopez said, "I'm not sure why, but there's grass growing in our carpet."

Certified mold assessor Ben Hales explained, "It's like a cancer, if you will."

Hales is not surprised to hear mold sprung up so quickly. "Spores can germinate within 24 hours," he said.

Preventing mold starts with the removal of wet building materials. If mold contamination is already progressed, Hales recommend moving out and calling a professional to assess the situation, and then a licensed mold remediation company.

Lopez is now taking stock of personal possessions such as clothes and toys lost to mold.

"It's all gone," she said. "It'll never be the same. It will all have to be replaced in time."

Take steps now to prevent the type of disaster Lopez and her family now face. If you suffered mold damage, removing it may not be covered by your insurance unless you have a separate mold policy. Also, be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau when choosing a professional.

An Eyewitness News request to speak with the apartment manager has not been answered.

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