What To Do if Your Car Is Caught in a Flood

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We’ve seen some serious record-breaking inclement weather this year.

With the landfall of Zeta yesterday in Louisiana, the 2020 hurricane season is continuing its furious pace — and it’s not even over yet. The Atlantic hurricane season actually runs through the end of November.

So far, we’ve already seen 27 named storms this year. That means that this season has already tied the 2005 hurricane season for the most active on record, and we’ve still got a month to go.

With hurricane weather comes plenty of rainfall, and plenty of flash flooding. And unfortunately, that flooding can be extremely dangerous to drivers on the road.

Understand the Real Dangers

Aside from heat-related fatalities, more deaths occur from flooding than any other hazard. That obviously makes flooding more dangerous than any other thunderstorm-related hazard.

But why? It’s because many people tend to underestimate the power of water. However, there is clearly real danger associated with all that water. After all, it only takes about six inches of fast-moving flood water to knock you off your feet — now imagine the force associated with deeper waters.

That force and power of fast-moving water is what makes flash flooding so deadly. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), many of the deaths associated with storms actually occur in vehicles as they’re swept downstream. Additionally, more than half of flood-related drownings happen as the result of driving into flood waters.

Preventative Measures

First and foremost, let’s reiterate the obvious. You should never intentionally drive into or through a flood. “Turn around, don’t drown,” as the NWS says. Heed all road closures and check the local weather forecast for information about flash flood watches and warnings.

Steering clear of flood waters is the best way to avoid these often preventable deaths.

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 could potentially become unstable.

If You Do Get Stuck

There is always the chance that you could be caught off guard by rushing flood waters — leaving you to unintentionally drive through a flood. Low visibility, traffic, and other factors could also lead to getting inadvertently trapped in a flood.

If you do happen to get stuck, these are a few important things to remember.

Above all else, stay calm. Unbuckle your seatbelt, unlock all of your vehicle’s doors, and turn on your hazard lights. This will help emergency crews easily spot your vehicle, and make you easier to reach.

Never leave your car if there is fast moving water. However, if the water is not moving, you should absolutely exit the vehicle and head to higher ground.

How to Exit the Vehicle

If you’re able to get out of your vehicle — as in, the water is not moving — it could be a little more complicated than just walking away.

When exiting the trapped vehicle, be sure to first remove any outer layers of clothing like heavy jackets or coats that could soak through and weigh you down. 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 to exit. However, you won’t be able to open a door until the water pressure is equalized between the outside and the inside of the car. This means you’ll have to wait for the water to enter the car and start to fill up, first.

I know it sounds terrifying, but it’s the only way that the doors will open. Once the water has filled up to about your neck level, open the door and swim to safety.

Never, ever attempt to break the windows. If the pressure is not equalized, the broken glass will rush towards you and any other passengers inside the vehicle.

After You Get Out of Your Vehicle

Once you’ve exited the vehicle, immediately seek high ground, and call 911.

Do not stay and stand on the roof of your car. If your car gets swept away, you’ll get carried away with it, potentially falling when the car shifts abruptly.

Never stick around in an attempt to retrieve possessions, and don’t return to your car — even if you think the water level might be going down. Water levels could rise without warning.

Allow emergency personnel to tow your vehicle to a safe place.