Flood Safety Tips

  • Buy a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio with a battery backup for 24-hour alerts whether you're awake or asleep.
  • Know your area; when and where it frequently floods.
  • Know your evacuation routes. Plan more than one.
  • Keep your automobile fueled; if electric power is cut off, gas stations may not be able to operate.
  • Monitor the weather, especially during outdoor activities near creeks and riverbeds.
    • A watch means conditions are right. Prepare.
    • A warning means it's happening now. Act! During flash flooding, you may only have seconds.
Cars and floodwater - How the fatal combination works. - NOAA National Weather Service Graphic
  • Be alert for signs of flooding (i.e. roadside drainage ditches filled, elevated creek or river levels, etc.).
  • Leave areas that are subject to flooding. Avoid areas that are already flooded.
  • Do not drive through flooded roadways. The road under flood waters may not be intact and there is no way to tell how deep the water is.
  • Do not drive around barricades.
  • Leave stalled vehicles immediately and get to higher ground.
  • If you are instructed to evacuate, do so promptly. Your location may not be under water, but the routes to safety may be.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it's harder to recognize flood dangers.

Motor Vehicles and Floods

Any first responder or dispatcher can attest to it. "First the rain falls, then come the phone calls" flooding into dispatch centers from stranded motorists, stalled, trapped motorists, or missing motorists. Most drivers overestimate their vehicles' capabilities and underestimated the dynamics of floodwater.

Nearly half of all flood fatalities are due to motorists attempting to drive through flood water. Walking in or near flood water is the second leading cause of flood deaths. The facts are:

  • As little as 18 to 24 inches of floodwater can carry off a vehicle.
  • As little as 6 inches of floodwater can carry off a person.

How It Works

Buoyancy is the biggest factor. The same force that helps float a 97,000 ton air craft carrier will float a vehicle, including 4x4s and sport utility vehicles (SUVs). In reality, a 3,000-5,000-pound vehicle is no match for the combination of slick or damaged roads, buoyancy, and the force of moving water. Whether it's an automobile, truck, or SUV, any vehicle can become buoyant enough for the driver to lose control.

  • In effect, for every foot of water, a vehicle weighs 1,500 pounds less.
  • At the same time, the lateral force created by floodwater increases (500 pounds per foot).
  • Add slick or damaged road surfaces (which can't be seen under floodwater) and the vehicle will lose traction.
  • When the vehicle is no longer under the driver's control, it may be swept away. It may stall or roll.
  • Drivers may have only seconds to get to safety. For too many each year, that will not be enough time.

Turn Around Don't Drown

Weather-related emergencies are a fact of life. Don't underestimate the 1 that takes more lives across the country each year than all of the others: floods. Turn around. Don't drown.

For more about the "Turn Around Don't Drown" campaign, including posters, stickers, and computer icons, visit the Southern Region Headquarters National Weather Service website.

Additional Resources for Assisting with Flood Prevention and Recovery

  • Make certain you are up-to-date on your tetanus vaccination (within the last 10 years). The Department of Public Health can assist if you need to obtain a tetanus vaccination.
  • Consult with a medical provider when sustaining any injuries during flood recovery/cleanup.
  • Keep an ample supply of safe, potable water.
  • Wash hands with clean, running water before and after coming into contact with flood debris or contaminated waters.