Driving in Flood Conditions

Growing up in the northern mid-west, you’re used to a variety of adverse weather conditions; blizzards, hail, tornados – I’ve seen it torrentially rain on one side of town and bright, clear and sunny on the other side of town just a few miles away.  One phenomenon not greatly accustomed in the area I grew up and have spent most of my life, are floods.  There are the occasional flood warnings, which locally don’t generally amount to much; and devastating floods can be seen at times on the news, but never experienced first hand, until a few years ago.  A powerful storm rolled in, blanketing a large area spanning a considerable portion of several states; and the rain, at times light, but mostly dense, kept pouring down.  At that time my mother lived and worked in another town, but the public transportation had stopped running because of the storm and she needed a ride home from work.  My dad and I went to get her, cautiously braving the storm in a little Chevy pick-up.

A small, unincorporated town situated on our route, along with the road we needed to travel that runs through it, was closed; water levels sitting so high on the outskirts of town that they submerged a minivan to a point approximately halfway up its windows.  Suffice it to say, we had to take a detour.

The “long way around” wasn’t too treacherous, the back roads sitting higher than the flooded main roads we might have otherwise taken; and once inside the city, a local interstate highway, though under several inches of water, conveyed us to the retail store my mother worked at.  Within the five minutes it took us to pick her up and head back the way we came, the interstate we had just been on was closed; the rising levels of water making it no longer safe to travel.

We drove back and forth for the better part of nearly an hour.  The route to my mother’s apartment being closed and the typical way out of town blocked off; we were boxed in, along with a fleet of cars rerouted off the interstate, who had found themselves in the same situation.  Following the flow of traffic we found ourselves in, we eventually turned down one street in the direction of home that wasn’t blocked off, as so many of the intersecting streets had been.  The street was clear of standing water, but within a matter of blocks this changed, as we soon found ourselves driving through several inches of accumulated water, which before we knew it, suddenly gave way to several feet of water.  We couldn’t turn around, but it was clear the truck was having difficulty cutting through the water that was well past the bottom of the door; more than once the engine sounded like it was on the verging of dying, when all of a sudden it roared back to life and cleared the deepest part of the flooded street and we were able to make our way back out of town.

The trip back was without any major problem, the rain having let up by then; my mother making arrangements to spend the night with relatives.  Upon trying to return home, I also found myself displaced temporarily, as the street leading back to my apartment, which intersected a normally small creek, was deep underwater as a result of the creek overflowing to the extreme.  The next day everyone took stock of the damage the floods caused; many people suffering some form of loss or damage to personal property.  The highway that had been closed has since undergone reconstruction and with its new layout, has been elevated in a way to hopefully avoid future flood issues.

We were lucky driving through the storm and the flooded areas, not to have experienced any greater difficulty as a result of the present weather conditions or mechanical failures dues to the effects of the floodwaters interfering with the operation of the vehicle we were using.  A car driving through a puddle, spraying water up into the engine, can kill the vehicle and prevent it from starting from anywhere between a few minutes to several hours.  Water that gets into other parts of the engine or mechanics of a car can do even more extensive damage, that can require greater work to repair; while smaller sedans and mid-sized cars can begin floating in only a few feet of standing water – the most dangerous place to drive during a flood being over a bridge, where a car may easily be swept away by a powerful, overflowing tide.

There are some severe weather conditions that are common enough that a driver in training can and should expect to encounter at some point in their life behind the wheel; like driving through dense fog or slick, icy roads.  Flood conditions can come suddenly and without much warning, especially to those already on the road.  That’s why Aplusb Software holds that student drivers, as well as experienced drivers, can never have too much practice driving; honing their defensive driving skills driving the 3D simulator SimuRide.  With SimuRide, users can navigate their way over roads that may be covered by ice or with their vision obstructed by rain or fog; and the random movements of fall boulders in a rock slide area allows drivers the chance to practice driving in the most unpredictable of situations.  Best of all, SimuRide requires neither gas nor insurance; and while facing these dangerous obstacles, the drivers are always safe.  SimuRide is available in a 3-monitor, panoramic Professional Edition, available for commercial driving schools; and a single monitor Home Edition, designed to work on most home Windows based PCs.