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Turn Around, Don't Drown Campaign Expands in Florida and Texas - FLASH website

Lower Colorado River Authority TADD article - June 2005

Turn Around, Don't Drown sign at a low water crossing

See what the City of San Antonio, Texas' Public Works Department is doing in spreading the news about TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN (1.1 mb pdf)

Flooding greets 'Turn Around, Don't Drown' date
Sheila Hotchkin
San Antionio Express-News Staff Writer

"TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN," a citywide campaign on the dangers of driving into high water, turns a year old today, and San Antonio couldn't have asked for a more fitting backdrop. The city just finished its third-wettest June on record. Barricades went up on dozens of flooded roads this week and firefighters made at least a dozen high-water rescues on Wednesday alone.

The Fire Department has yet to calculate how many people it fished out of flooded roads since the campaign began. The numbers wouldn't mean much anyway, since a rainy year cannot really be compared with a drier one, Assistant Chief Carl Wedige said. In 2003, firefighters made 30 rescues, compared with 181 the previous year.

Numbers aside, there are signs that San Antonio is getting the message.

On Tuesday, a parade of cars traveling on San Pedro Avenue hit an unexpected lagoon south of Summit Avenue. One by one, the drivers made identical three-point turns and went back the way they came. "Anything that we do to increase awareness in the community not to venture into low water crossings is probably a benefit to us," Wedige said.

Floods kill an average of 127 Americans each year, far more than lightning, tornadoes or hurricanes, according to the National Weather Service. Four-fifths of flood victims die after walking or driving into moving water. "TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN" began with a weather service meteorologist in San Angelo.

Hector Guerrero wanted a catchy phrase along the lines of the fire-safety mantra "Stop, Drop and Roll." He chose one after brainstorming with a group of firefighters from Harlingen, and a national campaign began May 21, 2003. The weather service now touts success stories from Alabama, Hawaii and Pennsylvania. San Antonio launched its own version on July 1, 2003, a year after four city residents died in a flood.

The campaign seeks to make people aware of what can happen when they drive into high water. Engines can stall, and fast-moving water sometimes sweeps cars off the road. People stuck in high water - and their rescuers - may find themselves in danger, Wedige said. Those unafraid of risking life and limb might be swayed by the potential hit to their pocket books. Venturing past a barricade onto a flooded road is punishable by a fine up to $500, while moving a barricade carries a maximum penalty of $2,000 and 180 days in jail. If a rescue is required, the city will charge a $400 fee.

Draining a waterlogged gas tank probably will cost several hundred dollars, said Jack Baumann of Baumann Auto Repair. Replacing a motor ruined while fording a flooded road can cost $3,000. "It's not a good idea," Baumann said. "It always looks like you can do it, but ..." Drivers who find themselves on flooded roads should try to keep the water below their fenders, Baumann said. If water is splashing over the fenders, he said, the driver should slow down. Riding the brakes while in high water will help keep them dry and in working order, he said.

"That's if you're in a position where you have to ride out of it," Baumann said. "You should never ride into it."

Las Vegas Weather Forecast Office Launches Flash Flood Safety Campaign

The NOAA National Weather Service Office in Las Vegas has teamed with Lowe's Home Improvement-sponsored NASCAR driver Kyle Busch and KVVU Fox 5 News to prepare an important public service message that will be seen and heard throughout the region this summer. The TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN campaign is designed to enhance public awareness of the dangers of driving or walking into flooded areas. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"Through accurate and timely NWS warnings and our aggressive public education efforts, we are working to make swift water rescues and flood related deaths a thing of the past in our area, said Andy Bailey, warning coordination meteorologist at the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Las Vegas.

The Busch PSA is one aspect of the national campaign, a joint effort by NOAA's National Weather Service and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. The local TADD public outreach campaign features 30-second TV and radio public service announcements. In addition, area new-car dealers will distribute 150,000 flood safety flash cards provided by the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. Anderson Dairy will include flash flood safety information on more than 100,000 milk cartons this summer.

Las Vegas-native Kyle Busch has been the top-finishing rookie in 12 out of 13 NASCAR events in 2004 and is featured in the public service message.

"Some people say driving a race car can be risky, but there's one risk I'd never take on the road. I'd never try to drive my car through flood waters," says Busch in the PSA. "If you encounter a flooded roadway, do like the National Weather Service and TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN"

National Weather Service storm data records that show 3,192 people died in floods between 1974 and 2003, an average of 106 deaths per year. During the same period, lightning claimed 2,002 lives (67 per year), tornadoes killed 1,935 (65 per year) and hurricanes killed 421 people (14 per year). The records also indicate 80 percent of the flooding deaths resulted when people drove or walked into moving water.

"When we were designing this safety campaign, we decided to start with the hometown angle, and we are thankful that Kyle, Hendricks Motorsports and Lowe's were so helpful in bringing this important message to the public. We hope the Las Vegas public service announcement will help us with the national TADD campaign in future years. With the growing popularity of NASCAR as a spectator sport, we want to carry the flash flood awareness message to as many people as possible," Bailey said.

"It only takes six inches of moving water to sweep someone off their feet and 24 inches to float most vehicles," said Kim Runk, meteorologist-in-charge at the Las Vegas NWS weather forecast office. "People who walk or drive into moving water not only risk their own lives, but also the lives of those who try to rescue them."

"'TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN' is a message every driver and pedestrian needs to heed," added retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "Efforts like these to bring the message to Americans are critically important, and we applaud Kyle Busch for helping the National Weather Service spread the word."

NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather and flood forecasts and warnings, and weather, water and climate information for the United States and its territories. NOAA's National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources.

Adoption of TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN Campaign Pays Dividends in Hawaii

The Honolulu Forecast Office adopted the Southern Region's TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN (TADD) campaign in November as part of an effort to boost flash flood safety awareness throughout the Hawaiian Islands. This simple message to avoid driving through flooded roadways is paying dividends during this rather active 2003-2004 rainy season.

The Honolulu Forecast Office promotes TADD through its web page, in regular broadcasts on NOAA Weather Radio, and through the media. At an outreach event in Hilo, Hawaii, two families specifically mentioned the TADD message in their decision not to drive through roadways flooded by torrential rains on January 23, 2004, a decision which may have saved them from unnecessary injury or death.

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Tracy had never considered the hazards of driving across a flooded road until she viewed a National Weather Service (NWS) safety video called, "The Hidden Danger: Low Water Crossings." Little did she know, four weeks later, it would probably save her from harms way.

It was November 2003 and the ground was saturated from rain earlier in the week when Tracy was traveling to work over the back roads of rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Ominous dark clouds hovered over head when heavy rain suddenly "cut loose." As Tracy navigated slowly over the country road, she approached a flooded railroad underpass with more than of foot of flowing water 15 feet wide.

"I saw some motorists trying to navigate through the water and others turning around," stated Tracy. "I thought of the safety video. I remembered it is very dangerous to cross a flooded road even at a slow speed so I decided to turn around and play it safe."

Tracy did the right thing. Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other severe weather related event. Why? The main reason is people underestimate the force and power of moving water. More than half of all flood related deaths occur in automobiles that are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn the road is flooded or take precarious risks.

Whether you are driving or walking, if you come to a flooded road, TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN. You will not know the depth of the water nor will you know the condition of the road under the water. By following the advice of one of the NWS' newest campaigns, "Turn Around Don't Drown," Tracy avoided a potential life threatening situation.

Moore, Oklahoma

Photo of the TADD sign of SW 34th Street just to the east of I-35 in Moore, Oklahoma.
SW 34th Street just to the east of I-35 in Moore, Oklahoma.
Photo by Gayland Kitch, Emergency Manager for Moore, OK.

Houston, Texas

Gene Hafele, WCM Houston/Galveston and the road blockade built and donated to the Houston/Galveston
National Weather Service by the City of Houston's Public Works Department.

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