Safety officials encourage common sense when facing flash floods


MADISON COUNTY, Tenn. — West Tennessee is known for its unpredictable weather, but that does not mean you have to be put in an unpredictable situation.

“If you see water running across the street or even standing water, you don’t know if that water is a couple inches deep or maybe two-feet deep or even where the road is washed out and it’s eight-feet deep,” Madison County Fire Marshal Don Friddle said.

The saying “turn around, don’t drown” urges drivers not to proceed through any amount of water if they cannot see the road underneath.

“People think they know their area real well, but sometimes there’s just a few inches between the road and a ditch,” Friddle said.

The fire marshal also said to not underestimate the strength of flash flood waters. The National Weather Service says just six inches of fast-moving water can knock over and carry off an adult.

“The water is going to be moving,” Friddle said. “It’s going to be trying to seek lower elevation, and so it is fast moving and it can sweep you off your feet.”

The fire marshal said a car or truck is not designed to travel through water, so in an emergency situation, contact them immediately because they have something that is.

“About a year ago, a car was stuck and the occupant didn’t feel safe — and rightfully so — going forward or going backwards, so we had to go out there and get him in a boat,” Friddle said.

Friddle said to use every tool available to you and become “weather aware.”

“We can make it as difficult as we want to, but we can make it as simple as we want to,” Friddle said. “And a lot of it is just good common sense and being prepared.”

Friddle said another important virtue to have is patience. He said when it comes to flash floods, they usually come just as fast as they go.