President’s Day could potentially be a day of staying indoors and avoiding the roads for Houstonians who have the day off. According to the National Weather Service, heavy rain is expected late Sunday night and into Monday evening, with a flash flood watch already issued for multiple counties. For those of us who still have our morning commute to look forward to (insert sarcasm), it’s important to know how to drive safely during a flash flood watch or warning, as waters could rise fast and unexpectedly in any given area. Driving in high water can not only do extensive damage to your vehicle, it could also cause life-threatening predicaments. Below are some notes to take and keep with you if you should ever find yourself driving during a flash flood.
Driving During a Flood
- Avoid driving at all costs. Move your car to higher ground, especially if you are in a flood-prone area.
- Avoid standing water. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and potential stalling. One foot of water will float many vehicles. Two feet of rushing water will carry away most vehicles, including SUV’s and pickups. It’s best to take an alternate route instead of attempting to drive through standing water.
- Drive slow. Driving fast can cause your tires to lose contact with the road, causing you to lose steering control. This is called hydroplaning. If you feel it happening, hold the steering lightly and lift off the accelerator and veer into an open space. Do NOT slam on the brakes. This will lock the rear tires and cause a spin out.
- During heavy rain, turn your headlights on when visibility is seriously reduced.
- Leave twice as much space between you and the car in front of you. It takes longer to stop when driving on slick roads.
- Pay attention to barricades. Don’t ignore them by going around them.
If your car becomes submerged in water
- Find a pocket of trapped air near a window or the roof of the car.
- Roll down the window if you can, hold your breath and swim out.
- If the window won’t roll down, break it with a car rescue tool and swim out.
Avoid wading in flood water
- If you should have to submerge yourself in flood water either to move your car or help someone, get out of it as soon as you can. Flood water, especially in urban areas, can carry dangerous bacteria from sewers and drains that can cause deadly diseases.
- Watch out for floating manhole covers or other potentially hazardous debris.
- Watch out for curbs that are covered in water to avoid slipping. If you slip and fall face first, you could get knocked out unconscious and potentially drown.
- Just 6 inches of flowing water can knock you off your feet. This is particularly dangerous for babies, small children or people who cannot swim.
Be Aware. Don’t Become a Statistic.
- In 2015, flash and river floods claimed 176 lives, up dramatically from 38 in 2014. 48 of those deaths happened in Texas.
- Two-thirds of those who die in flood-related accidents are good swimmers.
- A third (32%) of flood-related deaths are in vehicles.
- A mere egg cupful of water could be enough to wreck an engine.