The dangers posed by flash flooding are real, and they can happen anywhere – even on Fort Leonard Wood – and military and civilian agencies across the country share the same message when it comes to flooding: Turn Around, Don’t Drown.
According to officials with the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center/Safety Center in Fort Rucker, Alabama, it takes just 1 foot of flowing water to carry off a small car. Eighteen to 24 inches of water – a common occurrence at several of Missouri’s low-water crossings following heavy rains – can carry away larger vehicles. Army Safety officials note that more than half the deaths from flooding each year occur in vehicles.
In Missouri, flash flooding is the leading cause of flooding deaths, and historically more than half of the people killed by flooding were in motor vehicles. The state has even dedicated part of its official website to preventing fatal flooding incidents. Check it out at www.mo.gov/stopfloodingdeaths/.
Floods in Missouri
State, federal and military agencies share several of the same safety tips when it comes to flooding, but there are some special factors drivers should be aware of in Missouri, especially when it comes to low-water crossings. State officials advise drivers:
— Never expect barriers to block off flooded low-water crossings or bridges. Because floodwaters often rise quickly, authorities often cannot close roads in time.
— Be alert for high water whenever flash flooding is forecast. Don’t drive if you don’t have to when flash flooding is occurring in your area.
— Visibility can be poor, especially in rural areas with little or no lighting along roads. Some motorists never see the high water until it’s too late because of poor visibility due to darkness or heavy rain. Slow down when visibility is limited.
— No two high-water incidents are alike. Don’t think that because you made it across a flooded low-water crossing in the past that you’ll make it the next time. Many areas saw record flooding in 2015, which resulted in 27 deaths – the highest total since 1993.
— Looks can be deceiving. Never be tempted to drive into floodwater because it appears shallow. The roadway you’re looking at through water may not be intact. Floodwater often washes out roads or compromises their structural integrity.
— Sand and mud are factors. Cars will float when the force of the water is greater than the force of friction. Sand and mud that come with flash flooding reduce the friction force of gravity holding the car in place.
— If you wind up in floodwater and your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and sweep it away.
More safety tips
Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help keep you and your family safe when floodwaters rise:
— Be aware and stay informed through news sites, local media outlets and weather apps so you know ahead of time when flooding is likely to occur.
— Plan ahead in case flooding forces you to stay in your home or evacuate to higher ground.
— Gather emergency supplies, including food, water, prescription medicines you may need, flashlights, batteries and a first-aid kit. Be sure to store enough water – at least 1 gallon of water per day for three days for each person and pet.
— If you think you need to evacuate, get to higher ground as soon as possible. Be sure to turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve.
— Bring in outdoor items, such as lawn furniture, grills and/or trash cans, and secure them by tying them down.
After a flood
According to the CDC, the direct damage caused by flooding isn’t the only risk. Standing flood water can spread infectious diseases, bring in chemical hazards and cause illness and injury. They recommend the following tips:
— Avoid driving or walking through flooded areas with standing water.
— Don’t drink flood water or use it to wash dishes, brush teeth or wash or prepare food.
— If you have evacuated, stay in place and only return home after local authorities have deemed it safe to do so.
— Pay attention to water advisories from local officials after you return home. Your water may not be safe for drinking or bathing. During a water advisory, only use bottled, boiled or treated water.
— Throw away any food or bottled water that has come into contact with floodwater. When in doubt, throw it out.
— If using a generator, place it at least 20 feet from any doors, windows or vents.
— When in doubt, play it safe.