An alert reader of the previous LOTRW post suggested I link it to the extensive body of material available on National Weather Service and other web sites warning against driving on flooded roadways.
Their content falls under the heading Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
A thumbnail capsule, taken verbatim from that website:
“Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 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. People underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded. A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is NEVER safe to drive or walk into flood waters.”
The underlying reasons are captured in this picture (worth 1000 words).
No car weight pressing tires down on firm ground? No traction. The car obeys the water, not the driver. Simple concepts, right? Simple… except that you can’t be sure they’re taught in your local driver education class. Or that those realities have been taken to heart.
A vignette. During last month’s AMS Summer Community meeting, held in Tuscaloosa, an Alabama emergency manager shared this story. He happened to be on the scene at a roadway flooded by heavy rains on July 4th. A car approached, and the driver started to go around him and past the barrier that had been erected. The road pavement ahead was still visible under a few inches of water and appeared to be intact, but several feet of soil underlying the pavement had been scoured away by the floodwaters. Should any vehicle attempt a crossing, the pavement was going to collapse and the vehicle would be swept downstream. The emergency manager rushed in front of the car, blocked its progress, and began negotiating with the driver. She was having none of it. She had her mother in the car, along with her two small children in the back seat, and she was desperate to get home. Both she and the grandmother heaped abuse on the emergency manager, finally asking in exasperation why he was so unreasonably obstinate. He replied that he wasn’t going to be asking his crew to risk their lives trying to recover her family’s bodies on a national holiday. Only then did the driver relent.
At the close, emergency managers and the general public were on the same team, actively working together. Communication was good. Everyone accepted reality and shouldered responsibility. At that place and for that moment, they were weather-ready.
Doesn’t always end that way.