Although flash floods are rare, when they occur, they can wreak havoc. Yesterday’s floods again show how quickly a torrent can occur, and the extreme dangers it holds.
We urge all motorists caught up in floods to follow some basic rules to negotiate the safest route out of these situations. The most important factor in dealing with floods is trying to avoid them in the first place.
The South African Weather Service (SAWS) has issued severe weather alerts, along with flood warnings, for certain areas of the country for the next few days.
On days when the weather is heavy, motorists should listen to local radio traffic reports, monitor social media, and check online websites for advisories and cautions. If roads on your normal route are flooded, avoid them and seek alternatives, even if it means you will take a lot longer to get to your destination.
If you meet a flood anyway, some important rules need to be followed. Firstly, if possible, turn around and drive away from the flooded area. If this isn’t possible, try and gauge the depth of the water ahead by watching other vehicles negotiate a specific stretch of water. Do not attempt to go through this if it is deeper than 20 centimetres as the water may damage mechanical and electronic components of your vehicle.
More tips to negotiate flooded roads:
- Obey authorities and emergency personnel who tell you to avoid driving on a specific road. If a road has been closed, obey the closure, and drive the alternative route,
- Do not try and cross a body of water, even if you think you can make it, as the water may be deeper than you think, and the road may have eroded since you last used it,
- If there is a risk you will be caught in a flood, pull off the road and look for higher ground,
- If you do pull off, make sure you leave enough space for emergency vehicles to pass you,
- If you have no alternative but to drive through a body of water, drive as slow as possible in first gear with both hands on the steering wheel. This will give your car the necessary traction to move forward. Driving fast may result in aquaplaning,
- Ensure you are as visible as possible. Switch on your headlights,
- If your car is being surrounded by water, unfasten your seatbelt (and those of any children with you), unlock your doors, and open your windows. If water starts entering through the windows, get out of the vehicle and wade to the nearest point of safer higher ground. Remember, you are more important than your car,
- If your car is suddenly submerged and your windows aren’t already open, try and break a window and swim to the nearest point of safety,
- If you are caught in a flood, be patient and remain calm. The AA, and emergency services will get you but there may be delays as they have to negotiate the same hazards,
- Be especially cautious at night, or when visibility is low, as it may be harder to see floods ahead
If you do make it through the water, check your car for any damage, and feather the brakes to dry them. Have an expert examine your vehicle afterwards for any damage that be longer lasting.
If your car has been partially or completely submerged, and you have stopped in a body of water, don’t try and start it unless you have had a technician look at it as this may result in damage to the engine.
Finally, it is important to remain as calm as possible in these situations and assess the best way out. If this means leaving your car, do that rather than attempt to get your car through when it clearly won’t make it as you may be endangering your life and those of any passengers with you.