By Russ Volkert, Dover City Fire Chief

This spring in particular should serve to remind us all just how unusual weather patterns have become; it is undeniable that there has been a significant change from what we considered “typical” Ohio weather to less predictable patterns. Storm “seasons” seem to have fallen by the wayside- it used to be that we considered a “Tornado Season” for Ohio when tornadoes were more likely to strike, but in recent years we have found that tornadoes may strike at any time. We have also seen events like thunderstorms in the wintertime. It seems that the current conditions, caused by a “La Nina” weather pattern have brought excessive rain to our area and while we have been fortunate so far with little flooding, we need to be aware and prepared for high water and related issues. Following are some points to consider.

1- It takes very little water depth to incapacitate a vehicle and leave you stranded in rising waters. DO NOT TAKE A CHANCE TO CROSS FLOODED ROADWAYS UNLESS THERE IS MINIMAL DEPTH AND YOU ARE VERY CONFIDENT IN CROSSING. If you can’t see the road surface through the water, don’t even consider taking a chance, and even if you can and the water is several inches deep or more, don’t take the risk!

2- Do not allow children to wade in flooded areas, drains, culverts, catch basins and the like create a powerful suction force when water is passing through them and a foot or a leg can easily be sucked into an opening and draw the victim down into the water; in this manner someone can easily drown in water that would otherwise be deep enough to wade in easily.

3- Flowing water usually is moving faster than it appears and can exert an enormous amount of force, especially if you get pinned against something- even a relatively modest flow can trap someone so forcefully that they cannot overcome the force of the water.

4- Objects floating in floodwaters can create a “trap” on the surface of the water, first knocking a victim off their feet and then passing over them, trapping them underneath.

5-If you are driving in an unfamiliar area it is far better to attempt to drive onto an unknown but safe route than to risk driving onto a flooded roadway- let’s face it, in this, the age of cell phones and GPS, it is almost impossible to get lost, and even if you do get lost and don’t have a cell phone, a little time and gasoline wasted is not worth risking your life. Lastly, the following comes to us from the National Weather Service.

Turn Around Don’t Drown™ (TADD)
TADD is a NOAA National Weather Service campaign to warn people of the hazards of walking or driving a vehicle through flood waters.

Q: Why is Turn Around Don’t Drown™ so important? Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other severe weather related hazard. The main reason is people underestimate the force and power of water. More than half of all flood related deaths result from vehicles being swept downstream. Of these, many are preventable.

Q: What can I do to avoid getting caught is this situation? Follow these safety rules:
-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. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes etc.
-Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams. Turn Around Don’t Drown™
-Road beds may be washed out under flood waters. NEVER drive through flooded roadways. Turn Around Don’t Drown™
-Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
-Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

In closing, please be aware of your surroundings and environment, this will help keep you safe in any circumstance. Too often in this modern age we are too much in a hurry, too distracted and thinking too much about relatively unimportant day-to-day concerns to simply pay attention to what is going on around us. As a result we see more auto accidents, more ill-considered decisions (like driving into floodwaters) and more unnecessary risks that wind up harming our citizens and their loved ones. Take care and stay safe!

Originally published in the First Half 2011 Newsletter. Download here.