Welcome back to the rainy season!
If there’s something constant in our country, there’s the sweltering heat during the summer (sorry, dry season) followed by flooding during a downpour in the rainy season. We’re here to talk about the latter.
Getting caught in heavy rain is inevitable and there will be times that the only thing between our vehicle and our destination is a river (or a lake) of a flood on the roads.
Some may have the “luxury” of time to wait for the water to subside and park at the side of the road, but some might have somewhere else to be and make the decision of whether “to cross, or not to cross”. Sometimes it is doable, but sometimes you just can't. And shouldn't.
So to save you the pain of damaging or even totally wrecking your vehicle, we listed down 8 signs that should tell you to not even attempt to cross a flooded road.
1. Do you know the road ahead?
With the proliferation of Waze, sometimes we find ourselves on roads we’ve never used before. This is where knowing your route matters most. If you anticipate that you’re driving head-first into the rain, then it’s best that you stay on familiar routes; especially ones you know like the back of your hand.
The reason is simple: floodwater will hide potential dangers underwater. Knowing where a road rises or dips, and where manholes and potholes are can help you navigate through the flood. These bits of information are critical to making it through because one mistake can lead to a world of stress... and expenses.
If you’re unfamiliar with the road and all other conditions surround the water are questionable, don’t cross.
2. Is there a current?
Many experienced off-roaders will attest to this one: if you see that the water has a current, exercise caution. Or better yet, do not cross it.
This is pretty similar to crossing streams: you can angle your entry as straight as you can and plan to steer around any debris that you might anticipate, but a current (especially a strong one) can really affect your plan and reduce your chances of getting through.
If you’re driving into a current, the risk of your engine sucking in floodwater is higher. If the current is sweeping from behind, it can reduce the control you have over your vehicle. If it comes from either side and if it’s strong enough, yes you can be pushed away.
3. Look for depth markers or indicators
This one’s pretty obvious. Given how flood-prone some areas in the Metro are, LGUs have seen fit paint flood depth markers on posts. This is the first thing you should look for. If it’s too high, then obviously, no-go.
In the absence of markers, look at other common objects you’d find on the sidewalks. For instance, if you can only see the top of a fire hydrant, that may be too deep. If the curbside is visible, then you should be able to cross. If you see those items fully submerged (or worse, don’t see them at all), then that’s a pretty solid indicator to just wait it out.
4. If there's too much debris
While we see a lot of floating, err, stuff on the surface, there’s more to floods than what’s on top. Not everything floats, and it's these objects that you need to be careful about.
If you can see, based on the number of flotsam that this was probably a heavily-littered street, there’s a chance that something lurks underneath. A sunken drum, a lot of plastic on or under the water, these are things you can bump into or get stuck in an engine belt; neither is something we’d want to happen. It’s bad enough that you’ll have to dry up your interior, and it’s worse if you have to add body repair and/or engine repairs to it.
5. Observe bystanders and pedestrians
Here’s the thing: a bunch of people waiting on the curb or just standing in the middle of the flood can’t be a good sign. Chances are they’re there to wait it out. Some bystanders even help to push a helpless, flooded car out of the water. You do not want to add to that count.
There are, however, more to these “good Samaritans” than that. Take time to look at the people who walk across and into the water just to cross. That’s a pretty good gauge of the flood’s depth. Even the highest of SUVs boast 800mm of wading depth; that’s about 2.7 feet, or maybe up to the typical Filipino’s stomach (factoring in an average height of 5'6" or 168cm).
If you see these pedestrians walk out with pants wet up to their shins, then that’s manageable. But if you see someone who has a shirt wet up to their chest, then that is a no-brainer. Don’t bother to cross if that's what you're seeing unless swimming and fixing your inundated vehicle is your thing.
6. If vehicles aren't crossing
This really is the best way to measure if you can safely cross a flood. You could be lucky if what seems to be a deep flood turns out to just be a quarter of your tires’ height, but if you’re unlucky, you might end up driving into a literal sinkhole.
There’s a reason for seeing vehicles that cross, and those that don’t. For the former, their vehicles just can. For the latter, they’re just probably waiting for someone else to be their guinea pig and try, or most likely they also have doubts.
If the vehicles ahead of you can (and have) crossed with relative ease, then there's a chance you shouldn’t have problems either. But if the vehicle in front of you so happens to be a van and here you are driving a wee sub-compact, then maybe you should re-think your strategy. Or better yet just bide your time and read your car’s service manual. If you still think your nerves of steel can get you through, then here’s the last thing you should ask yourself, so read on.
7. If your car has gremlins
Know your car, we cannot stress this point enough. If you think your vehicle (and your skills and guts) is more than able, then go step on the gas. But the bigger picture is that you must know if your car can handle it at all.
Make sure you’re aware of any possible things that might break down in the middle of the flood. Is your car “palyado” even in normal conditions? Do your lights flicker like watching a bad horror flick? Do your vehicle’s weather seals and gaskets still keep water out even in the weakest of drizzles? These are things you need to assess before you even think of taking that plunge.
8. If you’re scared
Let’s make this clear: if you're scared, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of! If in doubt, DON’T.
Driving through floods requires a certain amount of skill along with a great deal of confidence to do so. If at any point you think that or your car might choke in the middle of a flood, then peel off to the side of the road and wait it out.
Once you step on the gas and drive headlong into the water, there is no turning back, there is no re-do and no reset button. It’s either you make it, or you do not. Clear your head, and make sure that you have thoroughly thought your next actions through. If you’re not confident, then wait it out. Fixing a car that stalls out in the middle of a flood isn’t cheap.
So there you have it, a few of the simplest ways to tell yourself NO, don't drive through that flooded street. Just remember that you may have a different approach to seeing water on the road, but it’s always better to not take the risk and protect your car and yourself than to have to worry and end up with a flooded ride. It won't feel the same, even after you fix it.