Driving safety amid rainy floodwaters


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) — The ongoing trend of rainy days is continuing this weekend. There are a few meteorological reasons for the excess rain, and a few ways to stay safe if you must venture out.

Typically in Western Massachusetts, for example, an average July typically finishes with just over four inches of rain. Not even halfway into the month, the region has clocked around twice that amount. That means the ground is saturated, which increases that flooding threat.

First, rain needs a source of lift to occur, or simply speaking, rising air. That’s because air becomes unstable as it rises. We had an advancing warm front, and warm fronts push up the air ahead of it. We also had an area of low pressure which does the same thing.

On top of both of those things, we also had a surge of moisture. The more moisture in the air, the higher the potential for heavy rain. The jet stream is carrying in moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. However, the heavy rain isn’t the only reason we have that flooding risk. It also has to do with how much rain we’ve had all month long.

Because of all the rain and flooding, driving becomes exponentially less safe. If your wipers are on, you must put on your headlights, but don’t use high-beams in the rain. They will reflect off wet surfaces, reducing visibility for you and other drivers.

The road is obviously very wet with lots of pooling puddles, meaning there’s a risk for all sorts of issues. One major concern is hydroplaning, when standing water reduces friction between the road and the tires. Drivers can easily lose control of a vehicle while hydroplaning.

A driver who feels like they are hydroplaning should try not to panic. Take the foot off the gas, steer slowly in the desired direction, and brake gently. The risk of hydroplaning gets worse the faster the car is driving over 35 miles per hour. It doesn’t matter if there’s only a little bit of water or if the vehicle is an SUV with four wheel-drive vehicle.

Don’t use cruise control in rain. If you hydroplane while using cruise control, your car may accelerate and confuse the cruise function, which can increase the time it takes to take control of your vehicle.

A good tip to help with visibility: Wash the inside and outside of windows and windshield before going out.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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