Turn Around – Don’t Drown

We can’t say it enough: driving into floodwaters is the number one cause of flood-related deaths. The number two cause is walking into flood waters.

It can be hard to accurately gauge the depth of water across a road. Scroll down and take a look at the photo below. How deep is the water? Maybe six or eight inches – just up to a normal car’s door sills, barely touching the underside of a truck? It’s green and murky from mud and vegetation, but the road doesn’t seem to slope down that sharply. It should be safe to drive through, right?

Now roll your mouse pointer over the picture. Are you reconsidering your decision to forge ahead?

(Image courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.)


Even a few inches of murky water can conceal many hazards: potholes, debris, even chemical or biological waste. A vehicle can slip off the edge of the road, puncture a tire, or become high-centered on a submerged log. For a pedestrian, those same hazards can cause serious injury or illness.

Moving flood water is even more dangerous. A slow stream moves at about 4 miles an hour – a good walking pace. At this speed, water exerts 66 pounds of force per square foot of surface area on anything in its path. Every time you double the speed, you increase the force by a factor of four – so flood water moving briskly along at 8 miles an hour exerts 264 pounds of force per square foot. Consider:

  • 6 inches of moving water can knock an adult off his or her feet.
  • 12 inches of moving water can move a light car.
  • 24 inches of moving water can move a full-size pickup or SUV.

Play it safe. Turn around – don’t drown!

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