You have heard us say the phrase "Turn Around, Don't Drown" more times than you can count, but we say it incessantly for good reason.
Flooding is the second leading cause of weather-related deaths behind extreme heat.
More than half of drownings during a flood are vehicle related. Every year, we see video of people driving through flooded roadways. To avoid ending up in a life-threatening situation, just remember to “Turn Around, Don't Drown”.
The next top cause of flooding-related deaths is due to people walking in or around flood waters.
It only takes 6 inches of fast-moving water to knock a person off their feet. That is about to the top of my ankle.
Most cars will be swept away by only a foot of rushing water. On a small sedan, that is about halfway up the tire.
For SUVs and larger vehicles, it only takes 18 inches to 2 feet of moving water. That is roughly from the top of storm chaser's license plate to just short of the front grill.
According to former Black Hawk County Emergency Management Coordinator Lorie Glover, "you should never underestimate the power of the water, the current. If it's a flash flood and the water is running quickly, never underestimate, you know, don't think oh, I can make it through there, I can do this and we see people do it all the time and then their cars get stalled. You know the best advice is to do what you said, turn around, find another way to go the route that you were intending to go."
Besides not knowing how deep the water is or the road condition underneath, there could be toxins, chemicals, or sharp objects in the water.
If there is a flash flood, get to higher ground, and if you are told to evacuate, do so immediately.
If you do get swept away in moving flood waters while inside your car, try not to panic.
You will need a clear head to unbuckle, unlock your door, and open your windows.
If the electricity goes out in your vehicle, you may have to break the window by kicking it or using a special tool or object from the vehicle. Just be careful because if the water is above the window, glass will rush in towards you once the window breaks.
This is a better alternative than waiting for the pressure to equalize by allowing the car to submerge and then opening the door. You will most likely have to hold your breath in this situation.
Once out, cling to the top of your vehicle until help arrives. If it is sinking, swim away from your car and find higher ground, then call 911, doing so while the car is sinking will waste time.
If you or your vehicle is swept away by flood waters, your chances of survival are much lower. By following the simple rule of Turn Around, Don't Drown, flooding deaths can be dramatically reduced.