NOAA 99R209
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Robert Chartuk
1/25/99

VEHICLES AND FLOOD WATER DO NOT MIX
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE STRESSES FLOOD SAFETY

As the winter season brings its inevitable flood waters to the northeast, the National Weather Service urges everyone to be extra careful when driving their vehicles into flooded areas.

"Vehicles and flood water do not mix," said John Forsing, Director of the National Weather Service Eastern Region. "Flooding is one of the leading causes of weather- related deaths in the United States and more than half of these fatalities occur when people drive into flooded areas. Through public awareness, our goal is to drastically reduce these preventable losses."

According to the National Weather Service, only a few inches of water can cause a driver to lose control and a few inches more can float a vehicle downstream. "If there is water covering the road, you probably cannot get through," Forsing said. "Don't even try to make it across flooded areas. Turn around and find an alternate route."

More than 125 people lose their lives each year on average in the United States from flooding, the weather service reports. "Many flood deaths occur at ‘low water crossings' where roadways intersect rivers, creeks, streams, and drainage areas," Forsing said. "There may be a washed out bridge or water flowing over the roadbed that could sweep you away. These hazards are particularly more threatening at night when darkness limits a diver's ability to assess the danger."

National Weather Service offices issue flood and flash flood forecasts and warnings and everyone is encouraged to pay close attention, especially in the winter. Highly trained NWS forecasters have at their fingertips data from Doppler radar, satellites, automated observing systems, flood gages, and other advanced equipment to issue their warnings, Forsing noted.

Other fatal situations people should always avoid include children playing near flowing water, drains, and culverts and the use of boats, canoes, rafts, tubes, and other devices in flooded areas.

"I encourage all residents to purchase NOAA Weather Radio's and pay close attention to weather service broadcasts, or tune to local radio and television stations to keep abreast of the situation," Forsing continued. "Weather service meteorologists and hydrologists will keep people informed every step of the way."

Tips on flood safety preparations can be found on the world wide web at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/pa. "We don't want people to be caught off guard," Forsing concluded.