How To Survive A Flash Flood In Your Car

by | Apr 30, 2019 | Emergency Preparedness, Headline News | 11 comments

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    This article was originally published by Sara Tipton at Ready Nutrition. 

    Since flood season is upon us, and it’s “unprecedented” this year, it could be helpful to learn how to gain some knowledge and learn to survive a flash flood.  If you get caught in your car in a flash flood, knowing the proper steps to take could save your life and the lives of anyone else stuck in the vehicle.

    Flooding is one of the most common natural disasters in the United States. Already this year, record-breaking floods have devastated farmlands across the country destroying crops and land. Some of the floods have even swept vehicles away with people trapped inside. Sometimes it’s easy to see the water raging, but other times it looks calm enough to drive right through. But either way, you should be prepared and know what you should do in order to save your own life if you get caught in a flash flood.

    The first thing you will want to note is the difference between a flood “watch” and “warning”:

    • flood watch means a flood is possible in your area.
    • flood warning means flooding is already occurring or will occur soon—and you should be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

    Jim Douglas, an instructor with Raven Rescue, toldTODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen that “not even a foot” of water is enough to make a car float. And SUVs and 4x4s are not immune: “Those big tires will make a truck float even easier,” Douglas said. “They are like big buoys. They’ll float even faster.”

    The easiest to follow a piece of advice is simple and preventative in nature. Try to avoid anywhere that is flooded. Even if the water appears calm at the time, it can change in an instant!  If things do change quickly, you are not only endangering yourself, but you are putting those who come to rescue you and the others in your vehicle in danger as well.

    Another reason to avoid flood waters is that often, the water is contaminated. In the aftermath of Hurrican Harvey, the flood waters actually help flesh-eating bacteria that infected some who had waded through the waters. But it isn’t just dangerous bacteria lingering in the waters. Gasoline, oil, or raw sewage may also be contaminating the flood waters. Additionally, water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and that could be deadly!

    *NOTE: Even the mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals and possibly dangerous infectious bacteria. The mud should be avoided as well if at all possible.

    If you do get caught in a flash flood, and you can get out of your vehicle before it is swept away, immediately move to higher ground. Be wary of seeking higher ground in flooded buildings, however. Those buildings could have sustained water damage that will make them incredibly unsafe and you won’t be any better off.

    Never go back for your vehicle if you’ve abandoned it, as it could be swept away. Do not walk through moving water and keep children away from water. Six inches of moving water can sweep you off your feet. If you have no choice but to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving – like puddles that are standing still. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.

    If you cannot avoid getting swept up in the water and your car begins to float away, these following steps are critical to your survival:

    • Roll the window down the second the water rises.  It is the only way out of your vehicle. Climb out the window and
    • Get on the roof of the vehicle.
    • Stay low and hang on. Stay stable: A car can flip in 6 feet of water. “At least being on the roof you’ve got a fighting chance,” Douglas said. “If you are inside and that car flips over, you’ve got no chance.”

    Knowing just how dangerous flood waters could be is a start toward staying safe. Avoidance is best and extreme caution should be exercised if venturing out knowingly into a flood. But knowing and understanding what to do in the event that the absolute worst happens and a flash flood sweeps away your car, will at least give you a chance at survival.


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      1. seems like a good idea to stand on upstream side of car to possibly keep it from rolling over. if on downstream side, there’s less weight, and when it DOES roll, you got nowhere to go. hope you have shoes on, ’cause you aint goin’ far in that streambed without ’em. also, survey the shortest/safest way back to shore if you end up standing on roof. but remember, the shortest way aint necessarily the safest way.

      2. Could a rack on the roof of a car help to keep you from falling off?


      3. Hello, Hello!
        Don’t drive through fast flowing water!
        I lived for over twenty years in an area that flooded
        yearly and possibly many times in a year.
        I remember going deer hunting and crossing over a bridge
        that had a few inches of water flowing over it, we planned a different route out for later in the day because we knew that bridge would be 2-3 feet under water when we came back.
        Local knowledge is a critical thing.
        Vehicles float for a bit when you first hit the water.
        If you don’t know, don’t cross. Later in the day, we got out of the area, but we opened the doors and windows to cross one creek that was really flowing. I had a 4WD Dodge Ramcharger with no fancy crap, most the deck was exposed steel no carpeting. I had to drain and replace differential oils afterwards as water had gotten in through the differential vents.
        My water depth limit for crossing is the top of differentials, any higher is no way in fast water.

        • ok, 2 stories to illustrate how you can find yerself up to yer ass in alligators. #1: it was raining pretty heavy here in the hi desert calipornia, and i drove my jeep to my friend’s house TWO BLOCKS FROM MY HOUSE, and i see a 2 foot puddle, water not moving very fast, so i just go right on through it…..except it was 2 and a half or 3 feet deep, and immediately stopped me, with l/f and r/r tires with no traction…..stuck in his front yard. he had to pull me out with his jeep. #2: maybe 20 years ago near the coast on one of those 2-lane hiways from coast over to the I-5, there were 2 CHP officers going out to a call, i think, so in a hurry, raining cats n dogs….a part of the road was gone, and in the pitch-dark, they couldn’t see the road was gone, and drove right off, both died. i can think of all kinds of ways to end up where you wish you wasn’t.

      4. Rellik, damn right. If you’re on any road or street that’s flooded turn around and go find an alternate route. Knowledge of your local area is essential. TURN AROUND DON’T DROWN.

      5. Rellik, one day in 1997 it was raining like a mofo in my area and I had just picked up my old 90′ F150 from the shop after getting the transmission rebuilt. I was on my way back to work and the route I took required me to through a tunnel under one of our railroad yards here. That same tunnel, although it had several drains was notorious for flooding to some degree in heavy rains because of the hoodrats, excuse me, “minorities” always throwing their trash out from their cars into the street and the city crews [composed of other “minorities”] only rarely ever came out to open up the drains. They were always clogged with trash. I go through the tunnel and encounter about 2 inches of water. Cars were turning around and looking for an alternate route. I guess I should have also but bear in mindI was in a full-size truck and of course trucks sit up higher than cars. Just a base model, regular cab, short bed truck with manual windows and door locks, no 4WD. and only the old 4.9 L inline six engine with a newly rebuilt transmission. I made it through that 2 inches of water easily Had the water been any .deeper I would’ve turned around so I guess I was just lucky. Didn’t even kill my engine. Yeah I know what some people say about Fords but that was the best vehicle I ever owned, bar none. It help up better than any stinkin’ car I ever had. I’m looking for another old truck now to fix up and will be paying cash for one. No stinkin’ notes for me ever.

        • You are brave(heart)…just kidding

          • JRS, LOL that’s ok. I have learned life’s lessons over the years.

      6. There was a family with a bunch of kids killed about three years ago outside of Payson, Arizona at a local swimming hole.It made the national news. I’ve been there many times, normally it’s a beautiful safe place to swim and hike.. But there had been heavy rains up in the mountains and these city folks from Phoenix I guess just didn’t comprehend the dangers of flash flooding. A wall of mud, water,trees and debris came at them from upstream and instead of scooping up their kids and running uphill for their lives, they stood there,gawked and filmed it on their cell phones !! Cost them their lives. Around a month later I was quadding in a dry creekbed, an offshoot of the Verde downstream but close to where the family drowned. There were debris six feet up in the trees from the flash flood, and stuck in a tree was a yellow plastic Tonka truck…..somehow I just knew that it had belonged to one of those poor kids. I still get kinda choked up thinking about it, not the children’s fault that their parents were clueless morons but they died because of it. Central Arizona is wild, rugged country, you have to respect it or it will F’n kill you.

      7. Get a lifted truck, never ever stop in the water like everyone does , if you cross flowing water cross at a angle from above flow to below flow. Dont be stupid if its flowing hard dont even try it. Then again i drive a 2017 chevrolet colorado z71 diesel lifted 6 inch and i have a snorkel, i have to cross flooded creeks about every week to get home so dont follow my advice.

      8. Revenue agents, forever on the lookout for new patios and garden retaining walls, should be sent to North Korea for punishment, when telling you to build on a flood plain. It’s not an act of God, because you were micromanaging.

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