When Flooded . . . Turn Around Don’t Drown™
Realize the dangers of crossing flooded roadways and respect the barricades put in place by officials to protect lives. On average, nearly 100 people drown every year in floods - more than half are caused by motorists trying to drive through flooded roads. Many drivers overestimate their ability to navigate flooded roads, putting too much stock in their “heavy” vehicles. In reality, most motorists lose control of their vehicles, including SUVs, in just six inches of water, while 18-24 inches of moving water will force a vehicle off the road. When the buoyant force is greater than the vehicle’s weight, the vehicle will move with the moving water. Besides the buoyant force, erosion is another significant concern. Moving water is very powerful and can undermine the integrity of a road. A motorist will be unaware he is driving into a scoured out section of the road.
Follow these safety rules:
Landslides - Warning signs and how to stay safe if you’re caught in one
- Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, or your favorite news source for vital weather-related information.
- If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding. These include dips, low spots, canyons, and normally dry washes.
- Avoid roads already flooded.
- Road may be washed out under flood waters. Turn Around Don’t Drown™ when you encounter a flooded road.
- If heavy rain is forecast or occurring, move your campsite and vehicle away from streams and washes.
- Be especially cautious when driving at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
- For more information: FLASH – http://flash.org/video.php
Washington state is one of the most landslide-prone in the entire U.S. according to the Department of Natural Resources
(DNR), there are hundreds, sometimes thousands of landslide incidents that occur each year.
Along with the potential for related deaths, landslides can cost millions in road repairs and property damage. The Washington State Department of Transportation annually budgets for about $15 million in landslide cleanup for highways alone.
These forces of nature occur when the integrity of the soil and debris on the side of a hill is broken down to not withstand the force of gravity, usually because of saturation or sudden movement within the land.
While landslides do occur naturally and are difficult to predict, there are warning signs residents and travelers can look out for, ways to reduce the risk of landslides and steps to take to survive landslides.
The U.S. Geological Survey
(USGS) provides a list of warning signs that could help Washingtonians recognize a landslide before it even happens.The following is a list of things to look out for:
- Any water or saturated ground in areas that are not typically wet, along with any broken water lines or other utilities
- Cracks or bulges in the ground, street pavement or sidewalk, tilting or cracking in concrete floors or foundations and secondary structures like decks, patios or additions
- Sunken roadbeds or leaning telephone poles, trees, retaining walls or fences as well as offset fence lines
Also, inside of a structure, doors and windows may begin to stick and visible open spaces in doorframes and window frames could indicate they are out of plumb and shifting.
In order to reduce the risk of landslides, the DNR has a robust list of practices that includes things like avoiding living in areas prone to landslides like steep hills, slopes, or areas that have experienced landslides before.
However, for those living in landslide-prone areas, there are actions to take during a slide that could help save your life.Here’s what to do if you’re caught in a landslide:
- Listen for loud or unusual sounds that could indicate an imminent landslide and quickly evacuate or move away from the origin of the slide.
- Move inside of a smaller interior area like a bathroom or closet where you can be safely barricaded in.
- Open any downhill windows or doors to allow any debris that gets caught inside the building or home to escape.
- Avoid any heavy objects or furniture that could move and injure you.
- Try to get to a second floor or elevated area to avoid being carried away by the shifting debris.
University of Washington professor Joseph Wartman, an expert on the deadly Oso landslide catastrophe of 2014, said even getting on top of a counter can make a difference between life and death.
The USGS said the areas considered the safest from landslides are on hard, non-jointed bedrock, relatively flat areas away from sudden slope changes and at the top or along the nose of ridges set back from any slopes. This is why even largely developed areas, like Seattle, face landslide danger with its steep hills and wet weather.
Nationally, landslides typically cost more than $2 billion in losses every year and an estimated 25-50 people die.