By Mr. Mike Bowers (Leonard Wood)July 1, 2015
Heavy or sustained rain should be a reminder for civilian and military motorists to use extreme caution when driving on roads affected by high water or flooding.
"Never underestimate the power of flowing water or overestimate the ability of your vehicle," is the advice from Jeffrey Cornuet, Range Control supervisor. "It is safer to find an alternate route to your destination than cross a potentially dangerous area."
The reason so many people drown during flooding is because few of them realize the incredible power of water, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service.
A mere six inches of fast-moving floodwater can knock over an adult. It takes only two feet of rushing water to carry away a vehicle. This includes pickups and SUVs, according to the NWS.
Cornuet recalled an incident where a military unit attempted to cross a low-water crossing with a Humvee. The vehicle was swept downstream and submerged.
"There were no injuries, but the unit had to guard the vehicle for several days, until water levels dropped enough for a safe recovery," Cornuet said.
Flooding is expected during sustained rainfalls, but Cornuet said sudden downpours could cause immediate flash flooding.
"It is important to pay particular attention to the warnings that are sent out by the Emergency Operations Center and Range Operations," Cornuet added. "These warnings alert training units what areas have high waters and what areas are temporarily closed to travel."
Cornuet advised a safe rule of thumb is never attempt to cross through a low-water crossing where you cannot see the bottom of the crossing through the water.
The advice is in line with the NWS safety campaign "Turn Around, Don't Drown." Following are facts, suggestions and tips.
-- Inland flooding is the leading weather-related cause of death in the United States. Every year, almost as many people die from flooding as from hurricanes, tornadoes and lightning combined. Most flood-related deaths and injuries could be avoided if people who come upon areas covered with water followed this simple advice: Turn Around, Don't Drown.
-- If you come to an area that is covered with water, you will not know the depth of the water or the condition of the ground under the water. This is especially true during the dark, when your vision is more limited.
-- Inland flooding that leads to drowning usually occurs during flash-flood conditions.
-- Flash floods are those that develop within six hours of a rainstorm. That may sound like a lot of time, but severe flash floods can occur in a matter of minutes, depending on the intensity and duration of the rain, the topography of an area, and the condition of the soil and ground cover.
-- Nearly half of all flash-flood fatalities are vehicle-related. The majority of victims are males, but flood deaths affect people of both sexes and all age groups.
Prepare for flood disaster in advance
-- Find out how vulnerable your home is to flooding by determining the elevation of your property.
-- Evaluate your insurance coverage once a year to make sure your home is fully covered. As new construction grows in certain areas, more flood plains are sometimes created.
-- If your home is in a flood-prone area, contact the National Flood Insurance program to learn what mitigation measures you can take in advance.
-- Contact your local emergency management agency to learn how to construct proper protective measures around your home.
-- If you live in a flood-prone area, keep these materials on hand: sandbags, plywood, lumber, plastic sheeting, trash bags, shovels, work boots and gloves.
-- Purchase a weather radio. These special, battery-operated radios cost as little as $20 and are available at many hardware and appliance stores and other retail outlets.
-- Put together a disaster survival kit. Keep the following supplies near at hand and put them in a water-tight container: flashlight with extra batteries, battery-powered radio and weather radio, first aid kit, medicines, eyeglasses, drinking water, non-perishable foods, change of clothes, cash and credit cards and copies of all important papers.
-- Plan two evacuation routes in advance. Don't wait until threatening weather conditions occur before trying to determine your route to safety. Be aware of streams, drainage channels and low areas in your region that are prone to flooding, so that your evacuation routes are not cut off.
-- Do not park your vehicle near streams or rivers, especially during threatening weather conditions.