For those who have lived in Hampton Roads a long time, another tropical storm may not seem like a big deal. After all, most likely, you’ve been through a few without any major issues.
So what if you knew that the majority of those who die in floods perish while trying to drive through floodwater, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But this doesn’t have to happen if you remember a few simple rules.
What to remember when driving during heavy rain
First of all, hang up the mobile phone. Driving in poor weather conditions demands your undivided attention and both hands on the steering wheel.
Be sure to turn on your headlights so that other drivers can see you.
If a street is barricaded, do not drive around the barricade ¬– it’s there for a reason. Find another route.
Do not drive through standing water or water containing downed power lines. A mere foot of moving water has enough force to sweep away a car according to Progressive Insurance. It also can cause your engine to stall and expose your car’s many electrical systems to flood damage. Given that the average new car contains more than two-dozen CPUs, and some luxury cars have twice that number, exposing them to water can bring your car to a standstill even if your engine is running.
If you’re forced to drive through water, drive slowly. If your vehicle stalls, you can try restarting the engine, but this could ruin it.
If you pass through water safely, test your brakes; wet brakes have reduced stopping ability.
If your car stalls and becomes submerged in water
First, don’t panic, but understand that you don’t have long to react. If the water is very deep, the car will continue to float for as long as 60 seconds. This is long enough for you to escape.
Instantly unlock the doors and roll down the windows. According to AAA, your car’s electrical system should continue working for about a minute.
Once the window is open, unbuckle your seat belt and climb through the open window and swim with the current to safety.
If the windows won’t open, you’ll want to break one to exit the car. You might want to carry a hammer in the glove box for such an emergency. Most likely, you will not be able to open the car door until the water pressure is equal both inside and outside the car.
If your car has been flooded: what to do after the storm
Should your car become submerged, here’s what to do, and not do, once the water recedes.
First, do not start the car. There’s water in the engine. Starting the car at this point could permanently damage the engine.
Next, remove any water still inside the vehicle as quickly as possible. While drying the interior will help, you might have to replace carpets or other soft-trim pieces that became wet to prevent mold from spreading quickly.
Then, look for a high water line on the car. It’s possible that vulnerable parts were untouched. If you’re not sure, open the hood and check the oil dipstick or air cleaner for signs of water. Late model cars have sealed fuel systems, so they are unlikely to have water in them. However, other parts of the car’s driveline could have been infiltrated by water. Also, it’s not unusual for some electrical components to be located low in a vehicle, so some of them could be damaged.
Check the electrical system by turning on the headlights, or using other accessories such as the audio system or power door locks.
Remember to note the type of water in the flood, as fresh water causes less damage than salt water.
Most of all, if in doubt as to your vehicle’s health, have it towed to a trusted mechanic. This is especially true if you drive a hybrid, as their complex electrical systems and extensive wiring make them more vulnerable to flood damage.
Finally, call your insurance company. But you knew that, right?