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Watch for Road Flooding and Washouts

When you are driving in heavy rain, it’s important to watch for road flooding and washouts. That water across the road up ahead may look like nothing more than a puddle, but looks can be deceiving. Over half of flood fatalities happen on roads because drivers attempt to cross standing water that turns out to be much deeper than they thought.

What Causes Floods and Washouts?

Floods are most commonly caused by rain and melting snow and ice. A flood can take many days to develop as rainfall continues after the ground is saturated. Melting snow and ice can cause rivers and streams to slowly rise and eventually escape their banks. This type of flooding can be predicted by weather professionals and can be planned for; however, flash flooding occurs quite suddenly, usually as a result of very heavy rainfall in a short period of time. Flash floods are the most dangerous because they can occur with little or no warning. It is flash flooding that causes bridges, river banks and stream beds to wash out. Whether road flooding occurs gradually or in an instant, the danger to drivers is very real.

Staying Safe in Flood Conditions

One good way to stay safe when confronted with high water while driving is to turn around and find another route. There is no way to discern how deep the water might be, so attempting to cross is very dangerous. As little as six inches of water can cause your vehicle to go out of control, and while your vehicle may begin to float in only 18 inches of water, it will eventually sink. Here are other reasons to avoid driving through flood waters.

  • The engine could stall
  • Your vehicle could get caught in hidden debris
  • You could be swept away by the water current
  • Standing water could be hiding a washed-out bridge

The real key to staying safe in flood conditions is to be prepared. Pay attention to the weather forecast before driving and take all flood warnings seriously. Always have at least two alternate routes planned so you can easily avoid locations where high water is possible. Signing up to receive emergency weather alerts for your area over your cell phone is also a great way to stay informed of possible flooding.

When you know the potential for flood conditions, you’re more likely to watch for road flooding and washouts, which also means you are more likely to avoid them.