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Turn Around, Don't Drown: Avoid Driving Through a Flood

UPDATED April 30, 2014

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Andrew Rosenthal

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Turn Around, Don`t Drown: it isn`t just a catchy phrase. If you are driving and water covers the road, remember those four simple words will keep you out of danger.

What makes water covering the road so dangerous? Flooding can damage your car, carry it away, or in worst case scenarios, drown you.

What appears to be just a bit of water on the road can be very dangerous. From the driver`s point of view above the road, the water can look several inches shallower than it really is. If there`s water on the road, don`t assume that the road is "crossable."

A few inches of water can decrease the car`s traction, causing the car to lose control. Only 6 inches of water can flood the underbelly of most vehicles, damaging expensive parts of the engine and stalling the car. One to two feet of water will carry away most automobiles.

According to the National Weather Service, water flows downstream at 6 to 12 mph with 500 to 1,000 pounds of force. In other words, imagine four football players pushing on everything in their path.

If your car is carried away by a flood, it can be swept downstream and into trees, bridges or anything else in the flood`s path, causing serious injury to anyone in the car. Flood waters can rise above a car`s windows, making it difficult to escape.

Here are a few tips to avoid driving through floods:

  • Before it rains, take note of any flood-prone areas on roads you use, such as dips in the road, canyons or washes.
  • Look for alternate, less flood-prone roads than your typical routes.
  • NEVER try to cross flowing streams.
  • If the car stalls, exit it immediately and get out of the water as quickly as possible.
  • During heavy rain, slow down to maintain control and avoid areas of higher water or even pull over to the side of the road.
  • Remember, it`s better to arrive late than run into danger on your way there. When driving through high water, Turn Around, Don`t Drown!

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