One of the most hazardous times to be on the road is during periods of intense rain that causes a build-up of flood waters. Pavement that used to be passable suddenly become lakes or even flowing rivers that have become hazardous to attempt to drive over.
Why is flooding so hazardous?
The Weather Channel informs us that 75 people per year die in flash floods. Roughly two-thirds of these deaths occur to people behind the wheel.
An automobile seems to be a safe, big place to be in, even when the water is coming down in sheets. But this feeling can lead to trouble during a rain storm and a flash flood. Roughly six inches of flood water will reach the bottom of a car and cause it to stall out. A foot of water will float a typical automobile. Two feet of rushing water will sweep away most vehicles, including SUVs and pickups. Remember, if your vehicle is picked up and carried off by a flood, you have no control where it will take you.
How to deal with flooding on the road
The best way to avoid flooded conditions on the road is not to be on the road where it is flooding. If you are planning to go somewhere in heavy rain, check the weather report on the radio or TV to see if there are any flooded areas along your route. A number of Internet sites in your area will be able to pinpoint which streets are flooded and which should be avoided.
If flood conditions are happening in your area, and you are planning to go out, you have a decision to make. Either you get in your car after planning a route that will avoid flooded road patches, or else you delay your trip until the rain stops and the flooding goes down. If you decide the former, you run the risk of flooding cropping up along your route after you leave.
If you are on the road when it is raining and flooding, drive slower than you normally would and be alert for flooded conditions ahead of you. If you see a flooded patch of road, do not try to plow through it. Turn around and try to find another route or go to some place where you can wait for the rain and flooding to stop.
Sometimes spotting a flooded patch of a road can be easy. Cars turning around from the edge of the flooding are a good indication. A stalled car in the middle of the flooded patch with the water up to the sides or higher is another. Unfortunately, spotting a flooded part of the road, especially at night, can sometimes be trickier. Is that just an inch or two of water or a foot? Usually, it is better to be cautious than to be sorry.
In an extreme situation, you may find yourself in a car that has been swept away and is underwater. Find a pocket of air, usually near the rear window. Take a deep breath and slowly roll down a window, leave the car, and swim for it. If the window does not roll down, break it with a rescue tool such as a Swiss army knife. As soon as you are free of your car and in the water, get to relatively dry land as soon as possible, Water strong enough to take your car away is more than strong enough to carry you off as well.
The bottom line is to be safe rather than sorry. You can get home or to that business appointment at any time. A foolish act of bravado that trashes your car or makes you a statistic can’t be easily recovered from, if at all.