How to Drive Safely through a Flash Flood
The U.S. National Weather Service looked at a 30-year national average in 2005 and found that about 127 people die every year in floods in the United States; much more than the number who die in tornadoes, hurricanes or by lightening. A Zevin 1994 report found that 80 to 90 percent of flood deaths are caused by flash floods. About 40 percent of flash flood fatalities were pedestrian accidents or motor vehicle accidents as the person or vehicle attempted to cross the flooded area.
What is a flash flood?
A flash flood is an intense flooding of low-lying areas over a period of six or less hours. In the Pacific Northwest flash floods are generally caused by a severe rain or thunderstorm.
As we enter the rainy season in the Pacific Northwest the chances are high that drivers and pedestrians may be stuck wading through deep puddles and flooding on some streets. When water gets deep enough it can seep into vehicles, causing them to stall and get stuck. When this happens, emergency crews begin getting calls about stranded vehicles and impassable roads.
How to drive safely through a flash flood
The best way to stay safe during a flash flood is to avoid driving or walking at all during the downpour and subsequent flooding. If you are on a street with no way to get around a flooded area, slow down and drive on the edge of the water in an effort to avoid the deep center of a puddle.
Speeding through a deep puddle makes a wave that causes water to shoot up; risking that it will get into the vehicle’s intake system and engine. A flooded engine can get hydro-locked, which can kill a motor and cost thousands to replace. A less expensive but still annoying reason to avoid driving fast through deep water is because the force of the water created by driving through it too quickly can rip pieces of protective shielding off the bottom of the vehicle.
Sports cars or modified vehicles should be especially careful in flooded areas as they may have very low air intakes near the front bumper.
If your car stalls in deep water, turn on your hazard lights and call a tow truck. It’s not time to panic yet; you may just need to let the ignition dry out. Once the vehicle arrives at the shop, ask the mechanic to check for a wet ignition first.
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