Navigate flooded roadways carefully this hurricane season

Posted in: Bridges, Highways

Hurricane season is hitting coastal regions hard this year. Harvey, Irma and the tropical storms following in their footsteps create dangerous driving conditions for people unable to evacuate and find safety before the storms hit land. Driving during hurricane and flood conditions may be unavoidable. Take these safety precautions to improve your chances of making it home safe and sound.

  • Drive slowly to lower the risk of hydroplaning. Keep plenty of room between your car and the vehicle in front of you. It only takes 6 to 12 inches of rushing water to carry a small car off the road. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, regardless of size. But rushing water isn’t the only danger – low pools of still water in the road can cause hydroplaning.
  • If your car begins to skid, don’t slam on the brakes or make sharp, sudden turns to overcompensate. Instead, keep steering in the direction you want to go and maintain a slow, steady speed. This is the best way to regain traction. Hydroplaning usually only lasts for a split second before your tires connect with the road again.
  • If you drive through water that is higher than your wheel rims, drive slowly to avoid creating waves or currents. Once you make it through, test your brakes repeatedly as water can harm brake systems. Sometimes, water crossing the road can be higher than it looks. If you become stuck in water, exit the vehicle by opening the door or kicking out a window. Head for higher ground, and then call 911.
  • Avoiding flooded roads is always a best case scenario. Find an alternate route or locate higher ground where you can park and wait the storm out.

Out of the nearly 600 people who have died during floods since 2011, 61 percent of victims were trying to drive around flood barriers and ignored warning signs. Because these numbers are so high, the National Weather Service has created a Turn Around, Don’t Drown campaign.

Underestimating heavy rains and floods can be deadly. While you’re traveling this hurricane season, be cautious on the roads.

Zach Haney, PE

About the Author

Zack Haney, P.E., is well experienced in transportation design and has been involved in a variety of transportation projects throughout the Southeast. He is a Safety Assessment Program volunteer and recently worked with local municipalities to assess roadways and bridges after South Carolina’s 1,000-year flood.

Read more posts by Zach Haney, PE

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