With disastrous flash flooding in the area recently, many Northern Virginia residents were caught unprepared for a worst-case scenario:
Rising water and torrential downpours cause widespread destruction, and moving water is often much more dangerous than it looks on the surface. The only time you should drive through standing water is when you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it isn't deep (less than 4 inches).
Just a small cup of water is enough to ruin an engine, leaving your call stalled and in a potentially dangerous situation.
But more often than not, we can't know how deep a pool of standing water is. And running water is a completely different story.
Just a few inches of moving water can sweep away your vehicle, yet every year motorists risk a drive across flooded bridges and meet disaster. Water moving at just 4 mph is enough to sweep even the strongest person off their feet if it's deep enough.
If you find yourself caught driving in the rain, remain calm and:
- Always use your headlights.
- Slow down—bet on at least twice as far to stop your car as usual.
- If you begin hydroplaning, loosen your grip on the wheel, stop accelerating and wait for your tires to come back into contact with the road.
- If visibility is greatly reduced, pull over and wait for the rain to stop.
- If you're waiting for a jumpstart on the side of your road, don't leave your hood popped open—the electrical components will become wet and hard to start.
Above all else, if you can avoid driving during torrential rain, you should. Besides flooding, hydroplaning and the risk of a stalled engine, you could also be faced with damaging hail, downed trees and powerlines, and other reckless drivers.
Stay inside or pull over. The risk just isn't worth it.