SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — There really aren’t many locations in America that are free from the possibility of flash floods. Some of the areas you may think would be the least flood-prone could actually be some of the most likely.
Those in desert climates can tell you that rains may not be common there, but when they do happen, they aren’t absorbed very well into cracked, dry soil. That can lead to rainwater running off, creating flood conditions and fast-moving water.
If you find yourself in a sudden downpour, and you’re not sure whether or not you should drive in it, you need to keep the following ideas in mind.
1. The middle of the road tends to be the highest place on the road.
If you’re in a situation where roads are flooded and traffic is essentially non-existent, you may fare better by not worrying about lanes and simply driving down the center of the road. As roads are typically slanted so that water runs off them, the center of the road is typically the highest part.
Obviously, this is only in situations where there’s absolutely no traffic coming in the opposite direction, and just because the center of the road is higher, it doesn’t mean there are zero dangers driving down it. You should still slow down and be twice as alert.
2. If you can’t see the bottom, you shouldn’t drive through it.
It’s one thing to be able to see the center line you might be driving down, but if you find yourself in an area where you can’t see the bottom — maybe because the waters are too muddy — you shouldn’t drive into it. Even experienced drivers who are going down roads they know very well can easily find themselves drifting toward ditches or coulees when they can’t see the side of the road.
3. The current can move your vehicle in as little as a foot of water.
Water is a powerful force when it’s moving. And while yes, your car is very heavy, water is that much more powerful. NOAA reports that the second-highest percentage of flood deaths comes from people whose vehicles are swept away because they underestimated the power of water. These are deaths that are 100% preventable. Never drive around barriers. They’re usually placed in roadways when officials estimate that the water is moving fast enough that safe driving isn’t possible. Those signs aren’t there to inconvenience you. They’re there to save your life.
4. Wet brakes are less reliable.
Your brakes are one of the first parts of your car to be submerged in a flood. And wet brakes aren’t good for anyone. The good news is that by driving slowly and pumping your brakes regularly, you can “dry” them out a little, helping them to keep their grip. If you’re speeding through floodwaters and try to rely on your brakes for a sudden stop, it’s not going to end well.
5. No vehicle is worth dying for.
If the waters come up faster than you anticipated, and you’re afraid you may become trapped in your car, abandon it. Being trapped in a car that gets swept away is dangerous because you won’t be able to control where that vehicle goes. That means you need to make the tough decision BEFORE things get that bad. While obviously, leaving a car and jumping into floodwaters can also be dangerous, if you’re able to maneuver your car closer to higher ground before you leave it, you’ll have a quicker walk (or swim) to safety.