Six tips for driving on flooded roads in Seattle

Being a coastal city, Seattle sometimes has its drenching rain and even occasionally flooding. In addition to wet, slick roads, high levels of precipitation results in local rivers, creeks and ponds flooding. These Washington floods not only cause damage to businesses, property and houses, but also prove treacherous to the cars wading through the flooded roads. Driving in flooded streets is the leading cause of death in flooded areas. Floods have been responsible for 12 presidentially declared disasters in Seattle since 1990.

Though many drivers think they can navigate through the flooded streets it is important to consider that it takes very little water to cause you to lose control of your car. As little as an inch of standing water can send your car onto oncoming traffic or off the road. It only takes six inches of moving flood water to push your vehicle off the road way, and your vehicle can float in as little as two feet of water. The water is not only treacherous on your car — it can cause significant damage to the roads in a short period of time making roads unstable for heavy vehicles. With all of the dangers that accompany a heavy rainfall it is important to take certain precautions before driving in these conditions in Seattle.

  1. Know Before You Go: Knowledge is power when it comes to road closures and flooding. Simply watching the news before you venture out or visiting the websites of local news sources will help you plan your trip. All major news sources will keep up-to-date information on Washington floods and road closures.
  2. Know Your Area: Be familiar with the area you are traveling around. Be knowledgeable of the typical Washington flood areas and which routes are safer for travel. If you have a GPS system this can be extremely useful if your route is blocked by water, if you do not have a GPS keeping a map in your car will be a useful safety net in case you need to find an alternate route.
  3. Obey Traffic Signs and Barricades: Caution signs, barriers, road closure signs and blockades are there to ensure your safety. If a water over roadway sign is present be extremely cautious when driving through the area. Scan the area before attempting to drive as it is always possible that road crews have not arrived yet to shut down the road. If you think it is safe, drive slowly and grip the steering wheel firmly. If the road is closed or blocked DO NOT attempt to drive around the signs and barriers. Turn around and find an alternate route.
  4. Leave Your Car Behind: If your car stalls or becomes stuck in the rising water do not stay with the vehicle. Staying with the car in a flood often leads to fatalities as the vehicle can be swept away by the water. Leave your car immediately and head to higher ground.
  5. Watch Out at Night: Judging the water during daylight is difficult enough, but at night it can be nearly impossible. Drive very slowly and watch for any signs of water over the roadway.
  6. Don’t Drive: If it is possible for you to not venture out into the flooded streets, don’t. It is much safer to wait for the water to subside.

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