When Flash Floods Strike

16 October 2015 - By Eugene Herbert

Hi Folks…

Summer is here and
while we look forward with keen anticipation to the relief the summer rains
will bring, we also anticipate that problems will evidence themselves,
particularly when we have a “cloud burst”.

The tips listed below
were certainly of value with the recent ‘flash floods’ experienced by South
Carolina and North Carolina   residents in the  USA where no
less than the lives of at least five people were lost due to flooding.

TV footage of some
dramatic rescues provided a reminder of how dangerously powerful floodwaters
can become during heavy rainfall. Now is a good time to remind drivers that
flash flooding can occur with little, if any, advance notice. Drivers need to
take the proper precautions before and during such emergency conditions.

Here are some tips from
a road safety perspective:

In heavy rain, reduce speed and leave more space between you and
the vehicle in front to account for greater stopping distances.

Look out for trucks or fast-moving vehicles creating spray, which
reduces visibility.

Driving too fast through standing water could lead to tyres
losing contact with the road surface. If there is a sudden “lightness” in
steering you could be aquaplaning, also known as hydroplaning. To regain grip,
ease off the accelerator, do not brake, and allow your speed to drop until you
gain full control of the steering again.

Do not attempt to drive through water if you are unsure of the
depth – in suburban roads look to the side as the edge of the pavement is a
good indicator.  On country roads this may not be possible.

Never attempt to drive through fast flowing water – your vehicle
could easily get swept away.

If your vehicle becomes submerged, first of all stay
calm. Remain buckled in your seat. If the water is substantially deep, the
car should remain afloat 30 to 60 seconds -- long enough for you to escape.

In this situation, many people believe if they are wearing a seat
belt they will not be able to unbuckle it and will be trapped in the vehicle. Not
true!!! A seatbelt is designed for quick release, and without it there is
nothing to hold you in place, nothing to keep your head from slamming into the
steering wheel or dashboard. (Hitting water at speed is the same as hitting a
wall.) If you were knocked unconscious, you would be helpless. You wouldn’t
have a chance to save yourself, let alone help anyone else. If you and any
passengers are wearing seatbelts, chances of survival are much greater.

Immediately unlock the doors and open the windows. Your
car’s power accessories should continue working for at least a minute or so.

Unbuckle your seat belt (and those of children or other
riders who need assistance) and exit through the open windows, swimming to
safety in the direction of the current if you’re in deep water.

If the windows won’t open, try kicking out a side or rear
window, though it won’t be easy.

You may want to think about carrying a small hammer or car
window-breaking tool like a spring punch or hammer in the cubby hole for this

If you can’t leave via a window and water is entering the
cabin, wait until the pressure is equalized on both sides of the door (usually
when it’s as deep inside as it is outside) before attempting to open it.

Turn Around, Don’t Drown

These tips are of
course far from “perfect” but are useful guides for inexperienced drivers. That
said one should never ever land up in that situation in the first place –
prevention is better than cure.

Till next time – Enjoy
the rain but be warned, water can be dangerous to drivers.

Eugene Herbert

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