RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As Hurricane Ian brings heavy rainfall across the state, Virginians are preparing for the possibility of flooding in certain areas. Some may find themselves asking, “can I flush my toilet?”

The answer depends on how your community plumbing system works, according to Lou Hidalgo, owner of Master & Sons Plumbing. Hidalgo says massive rainfall places pressure on city storm and sewer systems. If those systems become filled and rainwater floods into the streets, flushing should be avoided, the plumber advises.

For people in rural areas using septic tanks, Hidalgo says heavy rain can cause drain fields to become saturated and distribution boxes to reach their limits. People living in these areas should avoid flushing until they are confident their septic tank is not at capacity.

Septic tank owners who believe their tanks are flooded should contact a plumber once the storm passes, Hidalgo recommends. Sewer lines that have become compacted during flooding may need to be cleared by a professional. Pumping is not always the solution, as it can cause damage to tanks that are unnaturally full.

When power outages and flooding happen at the same time, plumbing issues can worsen, particularly in rural communities with older water systems. Limiting water usage during flooding can prevent further damage to water systems, Hidalgo says.