Don’t underestimate the power of floodwaters. The National Weather Service (NWS) says if you come across a flooded road: turn around, don’t drown.
More than half of all flood-related drownings happen when someone drives into hazardous floodwaters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the next highest percentage is walking through or near floodwaters.
Six inches of moving water can knock over an adult, while 12 inches can carry away most cars. The NWS says it’s never safe to go into floodwaters.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe:
- Turn around and find an alternate route if you encounter floodwaters.
- Use caution when driving at night. It can be harder to recognize flood dangers in the dark.
- Get to higher ground.
- Avoid areas subject to flooding like dips, low spots and canyons.
- Move your vehicle away from streams ahead of flooding.
- Attempt to travel unless you under an evacuation order.
- Drive through water if you come across a flooded road.
- Ignore posted warning signs.
- Drive around barriers blocking roads. The road may have collapsed under flood waters.
If you end up getting caught in floodwaters rising around your car, abandon the vehicle and move to higher ground.
If possible, use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you and try to avoid walking through any moving water.
If your vehicle is trapped in fast-moving water, stay in the car unless the water starts rising inside the vehicle. Then, you should try to get to safety on your vehicle’s roof.
According to AAA, driving through water can also wreak havoc on your car. They said an engine can ingest water and be destroyed, even by driving through what looks like a puddle.
A puddle could be hiding a sinkhole that’s actually several feet deep.
Driving slow is also important to avoid the risk of hydroplaning. A car can hydroplane in less than an inch of water.
Turning on your headlights when it’s raining is not only safe, but also the law. AAA says in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, your headlights must be on when your windshield wipers are activated.
If your car was parked in floodwaters, don’t retrieve it until they’ve receded. If your car was submerged, AAA said you should have it towed to a mechanic to be inspected before driving it again.
AAA added that even minor flood damage can cause a vehicle to be totaled.