VIDEO: Turn Around, Don’t Drown

“The one thing I want people to understand is, we haven’t seen this level of rain in the Lowcountry in 1,000 years,” South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said during a press conference on Sunday, Oct. 4.

Flash flooding in South Carolina and North Carolina had already claimed the lives of at least five people. Swift-water rescue teams were scrambling to come to the aid of hundreds of motorists stranded on flooded roads. About 600 members of the National Guard were also dispatched to flooded areas to carry out rescues.

Video footage of some dramatic rescues this past weekend provides a reminder of how dangerously powerful floodwaters can become during heavy rainfall. Now is a good time to remind fleet drivers that flash flooding can occur with little, if any, advance notice. Drivers need to take the proper precautions before and during such emergency conditions.

Here are some tips from AAA Oklahoma:

  • In heavy rain, reduce your speed and leave more space between you and the vehicle in front to account for greater stopping distances.
  • Look out for large or fast-moving vehicles creating spray, which reduces visibility.
  • Driving too fast through standing water could lead to tires losing contact with the road. If your steering suddenly feels light, you could be aquaplaning. To regain grip, ease off the accelerator, do not brake and allow your speed to fall until you gain full control of the steering again.
  • Do not attempt to drive through water if you are unsure of the depth – the edge of the curb is a good indicator.
  • Never attempt to drive through fast flowing water – you could easily get swept away.
  • If your vehicle becomes submerged, first of all stay calm. Remain buckled in your seat. If the water is substantially deep, the car should remain afloat 30 to 60 seconds -- long enough for you to escape.
  • In this situation, many people believe if they are wearing a seat belt they will not be able to unbuckle it and will be trapped in the vehicle. Not true, according to AAA. A seatbelt is designed for quick release, and without it there is nothing to hold you in place, nothing to keep your head from slamming into the steering wheel or dashboard. (Hitting water at speed is akin to hitting a wall.) If you were knocked unconscious, you would be helpless. You wouldn’t have a chance to save yourself, let alone help anyone else. If you and any passengers are wearing seatbelts, chances of survival are much greater.
  • Immediately unlock the doors and open the windows. Your car’s power accessories should continue working for at least a minute or so.
  • Unbuckle your seat belt (and those of children or other riders who need assistance) and exit through the open windows, swimming to safety in the direction of the current if you’re in deep water.
  • If the windows won’t open, try kicking out a side or rear window, though it won’t be easy.
  • You may want to think about carrying a small hammer or car window-breaking tool like a spring punch or hammer in the glove compartment for this purpose.
  • If you can’t leave via a window and water is entering the cabin, wait until the pressure is equalized on both sides of the door (usually when it’s as deep inside as it is outside) before attempting to open it.

To view a video from the U.S. National Weather Service warning about the dangers of driving through floodwaters, click on the photo or link below the headline.

To view video footage of motorist rescues in Columbia, S.C., click here.