Flash flooding potential could mean dangerous travel conditions

Published 2:28 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2018

RALEIGH — With heavy rainfall expected across much of North Carolina through Wednesday, the N.C. Department of Transportation is reminding motorists that the rain and potential for flash flooding can create hazardous driving conditions.

The weather system also brings potential strong winds, which could topple trees along roads.

NCDOT reminds people that avoiding driving is the best way to remain safe during heavy rainfall. If you do have to travel, drive defensively, slow down and leave extra space between your vehicle and those in front of you. Never drive through standing or rushing water. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing possible loss of control and stalling. It just takes a foot of water to carry away many vehicles, while two feet of rushing water can carry many pickups and SUVs. Most flood-related drownings occur when someone drives through standing or rushing water, and their vehicle is swept away.

To stay safe when driving in bad weather, follow these tips:

  • If your car starts to hydroplane, take your foot off the gas, apply the brakes in a steady, slightly firm manner and steer in the direction of the skid. If you have a manual transmission, push in the clutch and let the car slow down on its own;
  • For vehicles with anti-lock brakes, apply more steady pressure to the brakes, but avoid pumping them;
  • If the rain is extremely heavy, pull over in a safe area, either in a parking lot or on the roadside with your emergency flashers on. Park far from any trees or other tall objects, and wait for the weather to improve;
  • If line markings on the road are not visible, do not take a chance. Turn around.
  • Do not drive into standing water that can hide hazards, including debris and fallen trees or powerlines.
  • Allow more travel time by reducing your speed by at least 5-to-10 miles per hour;
  • Allow at least twice the normal following distance;
  • Turn on your low beam headlights and use the defroster to increase visibility;
  • Signal for turns ahead of time and brake early as you near a stop. Roads are the most slippery in the first 10 to 15 minutes of rainfall, especially if it has not rained for a while;
  • Pay attention to advisories and directions from law enforcement, and to any signs.
  • Do not drive around any barricades that may have a road closed.
  • Heavy rainfall often saturates the ground beneath trees with shallow root systems. Be especially careful when driving around a curve as a tree could be down on the roadway.
  • If you must drive, be sure your tires and brakes are in good working condition.
  • Be patient and do not pass lines of traffic.
  • Turn on your headlights, as required by North Carolina law, while using your windshield wipers – regardless of the time of day.
  • If a traffic signal is knocked out by a storm, regard the intersection as a four-way stop. If two or more vehicles arrive at the same time, the car to the right has the right of way and after signaling, may move in any direction. If two facing vehicles approach the intersection at the same time, any car traveling straight ahead or turning right has the right of way.

For real-time travel information, visit DriveNC.gov or follow NCDOT on Twitter.