Turn Around Don’t Drown

By Brian Alonzo

You often hear us mention this throughout our news reports and we say it for good reason. In weather situations much like the one we are in, flash flooding can happen really quickly. Day after day of rain can soak the ground really good to a point that water has to go somewhere. Most often its creeks and rivers. Why does it seem that South Texas sees more flash flooding than other parts of Texas? One is our proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. The moisture from the Gulf helps fuel showers/thunderstorms. Another is the terrain. The Hill Country lies along the Balcones Escarpment.  The slight change in elevation can sometimes force warm/moist air upward to help fuel showers/storms. This is what we call orographic lifting. Due to the combination of these factors we live in what’s called Flash Flood Alley.

Turn Around Don’t Drown is a public awareness program to help remind people that if they see water covering the road, it’s best to turn around and find another route to your destination. We at KSAT-12 work with the National Weather Service to help get the message out. Unfortunately many people don’t heed the warnings.

This issue really hits home to me. I don’t like to hear stories where people have been swept away by flood waters because they drove through a low water crossing. When I go to weather conferences, I often hear South Texas is one area that leads the way with the highest number of deaths due to flash flooding. I hate hearing that.  I’ve heard the excuses from people that actually survived being swept away and I’m sure you’ve heard them too, such as, “The barricades weren’t up”, “I didn’t think the water was that deep”, or “I own a truck”.  Let’s analyze each of these.

“Barricades weren’t up”….well that’s what can happen with flash flooding. It happens without much warning. That why its called flash flooding. If it’s been raining for several days, you can pretty much bet that low water areas are going to flood. What we see often too is that people go around barricades. If you do that and are caught you could face a hefty fine.

“I didn’t think the water was that deep”….You know it only takes about two feet of water for a vehicle to be swept away. What people don’t realize is how fast the water is moving. It may not look fast but it can be moving pretty fast. Also you don’t know what’s in the water. Think about it, the water is dragging trees and their branches, there could be lawn furniture, tools, etc. There could be lots of  sharp objects. I’ve also heard snakes could also be in the water. I can’t remember which event exactly but recalled the rescue team had to help someone stranded in flood waters and a few of the rescuers got bitten by fire ants.

“I own a truck”….I realize this is Texas…truck country. I think owning a truck and going through a low water crossing is a big gamble. Like I said earlier, it can take about two feet of water for a vehicle to be swept away. What do we all have on our cars? Tires. What are they made out of? Rubber. The vehicle plus the water(depth, speed, etc), and something called buoyancy will determine whether a car makes it across to the other side of a flooded roadway.

I looked up some numbers from different websites regarding flash flooding and according to FloodSafety.com 76% of deaths related to flooding occurred in vehicles. Reading an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association concerning the Flood of 1998, of the 29 deaths related to the storm 24 died by drowning. 1 died due to hypothermia. That’s something I forgot, how the water affects body temperature. (Isn’t it amazing what you can find on the internet?)

Anyways, I offer these suggestions: Learn your neighborhood, know if your home lies in a flood plane, are there creeks, or low water crossings that can affect you getting home or to work. New to the area? Ask a neighbor whose lived there for several years if there is any flood problems. The next time you come up to a flooded roadway and are unsure if you gonna make it through, its best to turn around and find another way. What is a few more minutes added on to get to your destination? It’s better to do that than get caught, swept away and possibly losing your life. If you have to be rescued think about the fire rescue teams that would have to go in and save you. They are also putting their own lives in danger to rescue you after a not so smart decision.  I would not want to even think about the fines, rescue fees, and the legalities that can be entangled if this were to happen as well.

Be safe out there and remember Turn Around Don’t Drown…

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2 Comments on “Turn Around Don’t Drown”

  1. Tiffany Says:

    Hello…I am close to Medina Lake and our creek is full and moving a bit up on our property. This is probably the most flooding that we have had since the big flood years back.

  2. Grant Terry Says:

    I am in need of bumper stickers “Turn Around Don’t Drown” for my division vehicles. Any sources would be appreciated.

    Thankl you.

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