It is a cycle that Carolina residents know well. A storm forms, hits, dumps heavy rain, and moves on its way. Clean-up can be slow, but you get a chance to dry out. That was not the case with hurricane season 1999.
In late August/early September, Hurricane Dennis dumped up to 18 inches of rain in the Carolinas. Just a few weeks later, Floyd would bring over 19 inches. Keep in mind that a coastal location may only average about 55-60 inches of rain for an entire year. So when you dump nearly 40 inches in just under a month, you are going to flood, no matter how well the drainage system is designed. And southeastern North Carolina did flood.
There were 52 fatalities in North Carolina, many due to drowning. When people encounter flooded roadways, there first instinct is to try to drive through the water. After all, the water may not look that deep.
Think of it this way, it is a question of buoyancy. For each foot the water rises up the side of a vehicle, 1,500 pounds or water is displaced. In essence, you car weighs 1,500 pounds less for each foot of rising water. In other words, 2 feet of moving water will be more than enough to float away a car or light truck.
Also, remember that you can’t see the condition of the road underneath standing water. It may be damaged, or gone altogether. What seems to be only a few feet of water may turn out to be over 20 feet deep.
NOAA has started an excellent campaign called “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”, and the premise is simple. If you see standing water on a roadway, don’t go through it, it may cost you your life.
For more on Floyd, visit our special Remembering Hurricane Floyd section on our website.
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