April 29, 2014
Flood warnings have been issued around Virginia, and AAA Mid-Atlantic is warning drivers to be careful with flooded roadways.
Data from the National Weather Service shows that nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle-related.
Officials say even slow-moving water can pose a serious threat. Six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock a person off his or her feet, and most cars will float (and be swept away) in only 18-24 inches of moving water. Trucks and SUVs offer little addition protection.
The safest practice during a flood or flash flood is to avoid driving onto water-covered roadways, even if the water depth appears low. Water depth is very difficult to estimate on roads, especially at night, when many flood deaths occur.
In the case of a flash flood, waters rise very quickly. Water that covered a road by only 6 inches at one moment could easily be 2 to 3 feet deep just seconds later.
Escaping from a vehicle once flood waters have carried it away is very difficult, and in some cases nearly impossible. Among the problems: water pressure on the outside of the vehicle prevents occupants from opening doors; the vehicle could overturn into a ditch or ravine and become inundated; and even if a person were able to get out of the vehicle, the strong current and undertow of the flood waters would likely be too much to overcome in attempting to swim to safety.
If your car stalls in a flooded area, do not remain in the car. Abandon it as soon as possible and seek higher ground. Floodwaters can rise rapidly and sweep a car (and its occupants) away. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.