MoDOT advises drivers to use caution in possible flash floods

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MID-MISSOURI - With more rain expected to hit mid-Missouri, the Missouri Department of Transportation is advising motorists to drive with extra caution.

According to the National Weather Service, nearly half of all flood fatalities are vehicle related. MoDOT said the already-saturated ground and the upcoming rain could cause flash flooding. 

Rich Skelton, the MoDOT maintenance supervisor for the Columbia and Boone County area, advises drivers to "turn around, don't drown" if roads become impassable. 

"If you come to a crossing that's got water over it, turn around and find a different way around," he said. 

Skelton said MoDOT will monitor the roads and update closures on its website as the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill make its way into Missouri. He said MoDOT closes roads that have more than 6 inches of water. 

AAA's Mike Right, agrees, saying drivers should just avoid high water altogether.

"If it's over the bottom of the tire, if it's up to your tire rim, you need to be concerned about it," he said. 

Right said many drivers underestimate the power of running water.

"It doesn't take an awful lot of water to move a vehicle off the roadway," Right said. 

The National Weather Service said as little as 6 inches of water may cause drivers to lose control of the car. Two feet of water can carry most vehicles away.

Boone County Battalion Chief Gale Blomenkamp said drivers who encounter a flooded road should turn around, even if the water does not appear deep. 

"If somebody does try to drive across that and they become stranded, now we're putting more people at risk because we're putting rescuers at risk," Blomenkamp said.

Blomenkamp said drivers should use common sense in these situations, but should call 911 if they're in a dangerous situation.

"We have the equipment, we have the knowledge, we have the training and so, if someone does become stranded by flash flooding or flood waters, call local authorities," Blomenkamp said.

Blomenkamp said all drivers should have a safety plan in place in case of a flash flood situation. 

"People just need to slow down, drive with caution and be very aware of their surroundings and have a plan that if they do end up in the water, what is their plan and what are they going to do and how are they going to deal with that," he said.  

Right said drivers should also keep an eye on parked cars.

"If you're parking in a low-lying area, and there are heavy downpours of rains, you can find yourself looking at your car floating down a river, or a road that used to be a river," Right said.

For more information on which roads in the area that are closed and tips on safe driving, visit MoDOT's website.