Any discussion of flood risk involving automobiles is very much a discussion of risk to life. Many web based resources, including numerous pages of the National Weather Service's websites, cover the dangers of driving during flooding. Here is an excerpt from an essay by a Kentucky Army National Guard officer that summarizes the dangers very clearly: |
"City streets can become rivers in seconds.
"In looking at the statistics, another fact becomes apparent. Most flood-related deaths occur in automobiles. Sadly, many of these fatalities were avoidable. In many cases, if the driver had turned around instead of driving onto a flooded roadway, one or more lives would have been spared.
"The reason for the high number of automobile-related deaths is that moving flood waters contain an incredible amount of force. For each foot of flood water, 1500 pounds of an automobile's weight is displaced. This means that two feet of water has more than enough energy to send most automobiles floating helplessly downstream.
"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.
"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. Also, 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!"
Even after a flood has subsided, the danger to drivers and people in automobiles is not gone. Wet roads and roads covered with silt or strewn with debris can be very dangerous.
While the water is present, the National Weather Service urges, "Turn Around, Don't Drown." After the water has drained away, extreme caution should still be exercised and driving should be avoided until local officials announce that free movement in vehicles is again safe.
Risks in Coastal-Outlet Areas People on relatively broad, flat coastal land might think they have little or no reason to be concerned about flooding. Runoff from higher places, whether it comes to the shore in gulches or as a sheet of water spread over a wide area, is unlikely to rise at the coast unless there is an obvious barrier to prevent it draining into the sea. Nonetheless, there are risks specific to coastal-outlet areas.
Wherever the ground is out of level enough to allow water to flow, it tends to move at 6 to 12 miles an hour, spreading as widely as the terrain permits. At the coast, the spread may be substantial, but prolonged movement of water across the land, even if it is spread till it is no more than an inch deep, can cause erosion. Eroded foundations or tree roots, ground under surface-anchored sheds or smaller paved areas can create dangerous situations. Be watchful.
Water rushing over open coastal ground can also carry away light items that are not anchored or placed in higher areas.
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