RALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Transportation is readying equipment and crews across the state to effectively respond to Hurricane Joaquin. The forecast currently shows major rain expected throughout the area even before the hurricane approaches North Carolina, bringing with it the potential for heavy rain and gale force winds.
In NCDOT’s Division Six, which includes Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Harnett and Robeson Counties, maintenance crews have checked equipment and inventory, and prepared high water signs and other traffic control devices for potential use. The division will have crews ready to respond as the event begins.
The NWS has issued a flash flood watch for portions of the Piedmont from Friday morning through Monday. Heavy rain and flash flooding create hazardous driving conditions, which can increase the likelihood of a vehicle crash. To help improve safety and reduce the likelihood of a crash, motorists should take the following precautions:
Allow more travel time and keep vehicle tires and brakes in good working condition. Buckle your own seat belt and secure children in child safety seats or booster seats in the back of the vehicle;
Reduce your speed and drive defensively. Motorists should drive at least five to 10 miles per hour slower on wet pavement and allow at least twice the normal following distance between cars to provide ample room for stopping. Be ready for a sudden stop. Remember that the driver behind you cannot see well either. Signal for turns ahead of time and brake early as you near a stop. Be patient and do not pass lines of traffic;
Stay in the car and wait for the heavy rain to let up. Roads are the slickest once rain has begun to fall, especially if it has not rained for a while. For the first 10 to 15 minutes, the rain combines with dirt, dust, oil, grease and rubber to create a slippery surface. If the rain is extremely heavy, stop and pull over with your emergency flashers on, away from any trees or other tall objects. If motorists must exit the vehicle, they should do so on the passenger side of the car;
Turn on your low beam headlights and use the defroster to increase visibility whether it is day or night. North Carolina law states that motorists must use their headlights at all times while using windshield wipers, regardless of the time of day;
If possible, stay in the middle lane. Most American roads are higher in the middle, so there is a greater chance of water runoff and standing water in the side lanes;
After driving through a puddle, tap your brake pedal to help dry your brake rotors. Try to avoid pools of standing water; they could be hiding holes in the pavement. Do not try to cross running water;
It is best to take shelter and wait out the storm at a rest stop or other public place. If you take shelter under an overpass or bridge, park on the shoulder and be careful not to block traffic. The weather could reduce visibility, and other drivers may have difficulty seeing your vehicle;
Do not drive through flooded areas. If you see a flooded roadway ahead, turn around and take an alternate route to your destination. If there is no alternate route, head to higher ground and wait for the water to subside. Do not attempt to cross over a flooded road even if it seems shallow. Just one foot of water can float many vehicles, while two feet of rushing water can carry away vehicles including SUVs and pick-ups;
Do not drive if you are tired or distracted. Driving in wet weather requires you to be alert, particularly at night. If you are tired, pull off the road to a safe place and take a break, or better yet, postpone your trip. You should also avoid eating, drinking, talking on the phone, adjusting the radio, or handing items to children in the back seat – anything requiring you to take one or both hands off the steering wheel momentarily;
Know what to do if your car begins to hydroplane. Hydroplaning occurs when your tires glide across the surface of the water on the road. If your car starts to hydroplane, take your foot off the gas, but do not stomp on the brakes. Instead, apply the brakes in a steady, slightly firm manner, and steer in the direction of the skid. If you have a manual transmission (i.e. stick shift), push in the clutch and let the car slow down on its own. If you have an automatic transmission, hold the steering wheel steady and lightly apply the brakes. For cars that have antilock brakes, you should apply more pressure (steady) to the brakes, but avoid pumping them; and
Put together a supply kit for your trunk. Include a flashlight, first aid kit with an instructional manual, blanket, booster cables, shovel, sand to give tires needed traction, snacks and drinking water, and safety flares or an orange or red cloth to tie to the antenna.
As uncertainty remains in how Hurricane Joaquin will impact North Carolina, NCDOT will provide real-time information about weather and travel conditions through its Twitter feed, @NCDOT. Regional Twitter feeds are available @NCDOT_Fayville and @NCDOT_Scoast. As the storm approaches, the department will send out tweets about road closures, flooding and evacuation routes.