What to do if you're trapped inside a car in floodwaters, according to a fire chief

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Friday, January 13, 2023
What to do if you're trapped inside a car in floodwaters
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Bay Area fire chief gives tips on what to do if you're trapped inside a car in floodwaters.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In the last few weeks, we've seen numerous rescues across the state of people stuck in cars, homes and flowing water.

On Wednesday, in Sonoma County a 43-year old-woman was found dead inside her submerged vehicle. In San Luis Obispo, authorities are still searching for a 5-year-old boy. His mom says they were on their way to school when their car got swept away by floodwaters.

Oakland Battalion Chief James Bowron says the number one tip is don't drive through water, but if it happens:

MORE: Tips to Survive: How to escape a sinking car

"Activating 911 right away. Knowing where your location is. Always having a good sense of what road you are on. What are you closest to," said Battalion Chief Bowron.

Battalion Chief Bowron says that if you can't see the white or yellow lines in front of you, it's not a good idea to drive through standing water.

The fire chief recommends staying inside your vehicle to prevent hypothermia unless conditions change.

"If your car does become stopped and you start to take water in, then you are going to have to do something more aggressive to where you may want to roll your window down. You may want to roll your window down and get out, and either get on the roof or get on the hood. You have to try to get on high ground," said Battalion Chief Bowron.

VIDEO: Widespread flooding leads to swift water rescues, road closures across Bay Area after powerful storm

Your last option should be to swim out.

"Submerging yourself or trying to swim or something like that is definitely the last option. Water is very unforgiving. The thing is that it's not just lake water. It's all the other stuff. You think about all the debris that gets swept down from other people's homes. From vehicles. Tree branches, logs - its very easy to get caught up or snagged in something in the water," said Battalion Chief Bowron.

But overall, avoid driving in heavy storm conditions and flooded areas.

"I think people don't realize how deep water actually is and how strong and powerful water actually is. It doesn't take much for the water to go over your wheel and the amount of pressure coming from these flows," said Battalion Chief Bowron.

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