Monday, March 01, 2010

Why you don't cross flooded washes

The El Niño rains have saturated the ground in southeastern Arizona, and new rainfall flows off quickly, producing hazardous road conditions.  The van in this picture was being driven on Happy Valley Road in the Eastern Rincon Mountains Feb. 23 when the driver tried to cross a flooded wash.  The current pushed the back end of the van downstream, rotating it about 110 degrees so that it pointed directly up stream.  The driver could not open the doors because of the water pressure, but was able to climb out the window and, holding on to the strap, get away from the vehicle.  He then walked to a rancher’s house on a cold, wet night.

[Thanks to AZGS geologist Jon Spencer for the description and photo]


  1. Some of those crossings look deceptively shallow and it's easy to underestimate how much force flowing water exerts on your vehicle (with air filled tires!). I guess that's why they made the "stupid motorist law" inside city limits

  2. Never drive through flood water when you cannot see the ground under the water. It could be far deeper than you imagine, and if it is a river in flood there is a danger you and your vehicle could be swept away.

    1. On encountering flood water, get out and check the depth. Water which comes above the bottom edge of your door can cause problems with the engine. Water can get splashed up into the engine compartment, leading to stalling.
    2. Drive slowly. Put your vehicle in 1st gear and maintain a very slow, steady speed. If you hit flood water at speed you will first lose control, then come to an abrupt stop.
    3. If you do stall in deep water, get someone to tow you out. If you are unsure of the depth of the water, or if it is moving water, stay in the vehicle and await rescue. Use your mobile phone to call for assistance.