NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — Flash flooding is one of the most common threats from summertime thunderstorms in Southern New England.
To bring awareness to this problem, the National Weather Service has a saying: “Turn around, don’t drown.”
This advice is obviously intended primarily to save lives, but it also could save cars. Vincent Flynn, owner of Flynn Automotive and Tire in Narragansett, points out that trouble can start when water rises just over the bottom of the tire.
“A lot of those things won’t show up for months,” he said. “You might notice the wheel bearings starting to howl or make noise.”
According to the National Weather Service, it only takes one foot of rushing water to pull cars downstream; two feet can sweep up SUV’s and trucks.
But even if the water is not moving and lives are not at risk, vehicles can be seriously damaged.
“If it comes up to the center of your tire and you draw a line straight across, you are taking water into the car,” Flynn said.
Water going into the vehicle can not only cause mold and mildew, but it can also affect its inner workings.
“Many of these cars have multiple computers in them – body control modules, transmission control modules – and sometimes they are mounted on the floor of the car, underneath the seat,” Flynn explained, adding that if the water gets high enough, it can even destroy the engine.
Thunderstorms typically cause more deaths nationally from flooding than any other type of danger associated with them. That’s why anyone who is not sure about the depth of the water ahead should turn around and find a safer route.
This is especially true because water depth is not always a constant.
“If you have, say, a foot of water and you go to drive through it, the wave you create in the front gets higher,” Flynn said. “So a one-foot puddle may turn into a two-foot puddle as you are plowing through it.”
And it’s not just thunderstorms that flood roadways. Longer periods of just plain rain can lead to rising rivers that can put surrounding roads underwater, too.