With the tremendous amount of rain & flooding that has occurred this past 4 months across the US, this is a good reminder. Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard. People underestimate the force and power of water.
Over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded.
It takes only 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a car and 2 feet of rushing water can carry away almost any other type of vehicle. Also, 6 inches of flood water can knock over an adult. It is NEVER safe to drive or walk into flood waters.
Flood Water in Action – Watch as the driver of a pickup truck in Columbia, South Carolina, does exactly what you’re not supposed to do when encountering a flooded roadway by driving around a barricade into swiftly-moving floodwater.
What’s Under There? – The water isn’t really moving very fast and it doesn’t look that deep. You know this road like the back of your hand, after all you drive it every day. Maybe the car in front of you risks it and makes it through. You drove through when it was flooded the last time.
It will be fine, right? Maybe all is well under there but….
The fact is, there is no way to know what is, or isn’t, under that water. Even if the car in front of you makes it, there’s no telling when a road might give way.
Turn around and take another route. A little extra time is not worth the risk or your life.
It’s Not Just About You – Flash flood rescues are dangerous for everyone – not just the vehicle’s occupants. Every time you risk your life by driving through flood waters, you are asking first responders to risk their life to rescue you.
Urban Flooding – Areas near streams and rivers are not the only ones susceptible to flooding and flash flooding.
Densely populated areas are at a high risk for flash floods. The construction of buildings, highways, driveways, and parking lots increases water runoff by reducing the amount of rain absorbed by the ground. This runoff increases flash flood potential.
Sometimes, streams through cities and towns are routed underground into storm drains. During heavy rain, the storm drains can become overwhelmed and flood roads and buildings. Low spots, such as underpasses, underground parking garages, and basements can become exceedingly hazardous.
Mountains and Hills – Living in WV we know very well that mountains and steep hills produce rapid runoff, which causes streams to rise quickly. Rocks and clay soils do not allow much water to soak into the ground. Already saturated soil also can lead rapidly to flash flooding.
A creek only 6 inches deep in mountainous areas can swell to a 10-foot deep raging river in less than an hour if a thunderstorm lingers over an area for an extended period of time.
Watches vs Warnings
Flash Flood Warning: Take Action! A Flash Flood Warning is issued when a flash flood is imminent or occurring. If you are in a flood prone area move immediately to high ground. A flash flood is a sudden violent flood that can take from minutes to hours to develop. It is even possible to experience a flash flood in areas not immediately receiving rain.
Flash Flood Watch: Be Prepared. A Flash Flood Watch is issued to indicate current or developing conditions favorable for flash flooding. A watch is typically issued within several hours to days ahead of the onset of possible flash flooding.
Remember – always drive smart in heavy rains and flooded areas. Turn around!