With flash flooding currently occurring across portions of the Northeast, it’s important that people know what to do if stuck. Just one foot of quickly moving water can sweep a vehicle away, and that can lead to a dangerous situation. Deep enough water can also stall a car’s engine.
“People underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream,” explains the National Weather Service.
According to the NWS, flooding is the most common cause of fatalities when it comes to thunderstorm-related hazards. Additionally, more than half of flood-related drownings happen as the result of driving into floodwaters.
First and foremost, we must reiterate the obvious: never intentionally drive into or through a flood. Turn around, don’t drown. Heed all road closures and check the local weather forecast for information about flash flood watches and warnings.
If you know there is a chance of flash flooding, you should immediately seek higher ground.
You should also avoid driving over any bridges that are above rapidly moving floodwaters, as the bridge may become unstable.
Sometimes driving through a flood simply can’t be helped, as drivers are completely caught off guard by rushing floodwaters. Low visibility and other factors could lead to getting inadvertently trapped in a flood.
If you do get stuck, there are some things you must remember. First, stay calm and unbuckle your seat belt. Unlock all car doors and turn your hazard lights on so emergency crew can more easily spot your vehicle.
Do not leave the car to enter fast moving water. However, if flood waters are not moving, you should abandon your vehicle and head to high ground.
When exiting the trapped vehicle, be sure to first remove any outer layers of clothing like heavy jackets or coats. Roll down your windows and climb out with your feet first.
If your vehicle is completely submerged and your windows won’t work, you’ll have to use the door. However, you must first wait for the pressure to equalize in order to do so. Do not attempt to break the windows. If the pressure is not equalized, the broken glass will fly towards you and any other passengers.
Once the water inside the vehicle has reached your neck, you should be able to open the car door.
Once you’ve exited the vehicle, immediately seek high ground and call for help if you can. Do not sit or stand on the roof of your vehicle, and do not try to retrieve personal belongings. Wait for emergency crews to tow your vehicle somewhere safe.