Driving in Flood Conditions
Unlike snow and ice, a flood can occur during any time of the year, regardless of the temperature. Since you have a greater chance of being caught driving in flood conditions than any other type of dangerous road condition, it’s critical to understand the fundamentals of driving during a flood.
Look for Alternate Routes
Once the weather turns bad and the risk of flood is high, it’s a good idea to avoid going out if at all possible. If you find yourself away from home when flooding starts, you’ll want to pay special attention to roadblocks so you know which areas are considered impassable by the authorities. If this means staying at work a little longer or pulling off the road to pass the time in a store, that’s often preferable to getting stuck on a flooded road.
Even if you see other vehicles traveling in the flooded area, pay attention to their size. While a heavy duty truck may have little trouble navigating the water on a particular road, that same amount of water could spell disaster for your sedan.
Driving through Flooded Areas
If there are no side streets or back roads that you can take to make it to your destination, even after pulling over and consulting a map, you may decide that your only chance to get home is to risk driving across a flooded stretch of road, but leave this as a last resort.
First of all, you should check the depth of the water – if the water isn’t too high (never drive if the water is six or more inches high as you might lose control), drive slowly, putting your car in first or second gear. While your bed may be the most comfortable place in the world, it can wait. Remember: standing water on the road can create an ever-changing roadway, so it’s not advisable to attempt powering through at high speeds. Also, the water can hide dips in the road or areas where the road has washed away, making even the slightest dips ten times more dangerous.
The best way to navigate through a flooded area is one car at a time. Wait for oncoming vehicles to pass through before attempting yourself. However, if it’s unavoidable and there are other vehicles in front of you, watch their tail lights and never get too close behind them. Pay extra attention to how they navigate the water and try to follow in their tracks whenever possible. Be careful riding next to or behind vehicles larger than your own: the water coming up from behind them or next to them could splash onto your windshield, compromising visibility.
Drive a deliberate and steady pace in the middle where the water is the shallowest until you reach the other side of the flooded area. Once there, you can test your brakes to ensure the high water didn’t affect them. In some cases, you may need to dry them by tapping on the brake pedal while you keep your other foot lightly on the gas pedal.
Please note: If you see downed power lines in or near the flooded section of road, look for an alternate route or shelter in place. Water and high voltage electricity are the worst of elemental combinations.
What to Do if You Become Trapped
First and foremost, always remain calm, no matter how high the water around you is becoming. Allowing yourself to panic will only make it more difficult to think rationally. People tend to get hurt when panic brain steps in.
If your car is simply stalled, you can try to restart it and continue through the flooded area, however, this may cause damage to your engine. Abandon your car immediately if you’re in a situation where your vehicle won’t restart or you’ve lost too much traction to continue driving. Since you may not always be able to force open your door against high water, remember to check whether your window will still roll down enough to let you out. Escaping through a sunroof can also be an option for some stranded motorists.
If you’re unable to get out of your vehicle and make it to higher ground, call 9-1-1 for assistance right away. While calling for help may not seem like an emergency when you’re stuck in relatively low floodwaters, the situation can change rapidly. Always err on the side of caution.