Dealing with flash floods
Given the frightening, and devastating, downpour across Johannesburg yesterday, Wednesday, November 9 – and the fact that the city is in for more of the same over the next few days – the Automobile Association (AA) issued some basic rules for motorists to negotiate the safest route out of such a situation, should they get caught.
“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,” the Association notes. “The most important factor in dealing with floods is to try to avoid them in the first place,” it adds.
“On days when the weather is heavy, motorists should listen to local radio traffic reports, monitor social media, and check 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.”
However, the AA says, if you meet a flood, some important rules need to be followed.
“First, 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 cm, as the water may damage mechanical and electronic components of your vehicle,” the Association advises.
Some other tips to negotiate flooded roads include:
• 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 use 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 realise, 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 slowly 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 may be longer lasting.
“If your vehicle has been partially or completely submerged, and you have stopped in a body of water, don’t try to start it unless you have had a technician look at it, as this may result in damage to the engine,” the AA advises.
“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; doing so may endanger your life and those of any passengers with you,” the AA concludes.