LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Monsoon summer days often start with blue skies, but as afternoon heat and humidity boil, skies can explode with heavy rain quickly overwhelming valley streets, washes and people.
“People underestimate water. That water does not soak into the ground, it just rushes downhill. It can get up to 30 mph and it can rise a foot a minute,” said Erin Neff, Clark County Regional Flood Control District. “The other thing is it’s dirty and you cannot see what’s under it.”
It can also be deep water. Stranded motorists are often the most vulnerable victims, Neff said. Just six inches of rising water can stall a car. A foot can turn a vehicle into a boat and two feet of rushing water can carry your car or truck away.
“You know every flash flood season on your station there’s a car stuck somewhere on a flooded road and your reporter goes over and says why did you do it? ‘I thought I could make it,'” Neff said.
But most often, they can’t. Nationally, two-thirds of flash flooding deaths occur in vehicles.
The flood control district has rolled out public service campaigns through the years to educate drivers to steer clear of driving through floodwaters. “Turn around, don’t drown” has become a memorable slogan.
And their very popular license plate contest asked the public to create catchy vanity plates regarding reckless driving in high waters. Hundreds and hundreds of entries poured in and winners appeared on valley billboards.
“That’s our whole goal,” Neff said. “We’re trying to change behavior.”
And the most recent slogan, “Water always wins” takes a dark turn by reminding daring drivers how quickly their luck can run out when they take a chance in floodwaters.
“We have seen — over time — the public is getting our messaging. Either that or they’re getting smarter. When we ask the public what do you do when you get to a flooded intersection? Seventy percent of them say ‘we turn around we don’t drive through it,'” Neff said.
But there are still those who don’t believe and so the awareness campaigns will continue until everyone understands.
“You don’t make it. Water will take your car and if you’re not lucky it will take your life,” Neff said.