What to do in a flash flood


Parts of South Africa saw one of its worst flash floods in history yesterday. Weather services have warned to expect more flash floods this afternoon. Following the devastating and tragic consequences of yesterday’s floods read on to learn what to do if you find yourself in this difficult position.

First and foremost, avoid low-lying bridges, areas prone to flash floods or large pools of water in the road wherever possible. If, however, you are unable to avoid one of these situations, this is the least that you should do.

Pools of water:

  • Estimate the depth of the water. Avoid driving through water which comes to the middle of your tyre. Even if you avoid being swept away you risk serious damage to your car
  • Most drivers risk driving through a pool of water but roads which collect water are more vulnerable to collapse and it is easy to underestimate their depth
  • Drive in the middle of a road where the water is at its lowest
  • Pass one car at a time, do not drive through water against oncoming vehicles

Fast-flowing water

  • Never drive through fast flowing water.
  • It only takes 15 cm to touch the bottoms of most cars and consequently cause loss of control or stalling
  • Your car tyres will lift off the tar at 30cm of water where you can lose control or get washed away
  • Even 4X4s can be washed away in 60cm of water
  • Drive slowly and steadily through while in first or second gear or the lowest gear in automatic vehicles
  • Once you are through the water, lightly touch your brake a few times to dry them off.
  • If your car stalls and you are not in danger of being swept away do not restart the car. Rather get a mechanic to check no water has made its way into the engine

When caught in an unexpected flash flood

  • If suddenly you start losing grip it might be because the car is starting to float.
  • Open the door to let some of the water in which will weigh the car down and allow the tyres to grip the road again
  • If you are in danger of being swept away abandon the vehicle if you have an opportunity to do so safely.
  • If you are swept away by water when you exit the car, lift your toes and point them downstream and manoeuvre yourself around obstacles.
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